In Rare Decision, MPCA Commissioner Denies Feedlot Permit to Fillmore County Factory Farm

Public Outcry for Environmental Impact Statement Results in Permit Denial

ST. PAUL, Minn. — After months of public pressure and in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner John Linc Stine announced on Dec. 18 that a controversial factory hog farm proposed by Catalpa Ag in Newburg Township in Fillmore County would be denied a permit from his agency. MPCA feedlot permits are rarely denied and this is a substantial setback for the project, which has yet to receive any local or county permits.

Hundreds of local farmers and rural residents at two standing-room only public meetings that were focused on the issue in Mabel, Minn., had pushed the MPCA to order an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed project. The MPCA repeatedly postponed making a decision on ordering an EIS and the decision to deny the permit means the project as currently proposed is dead and that a decision on environmental review is no longer relevant. The MPCA denied Catalpa Ag’s application for a general National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, but indicated that the company may still apply for a customized permit, known as an "individual permit." If an individual permit is applied for, then a new environmental review process must be considered.

As proposed, the Catalpa Ag factory hog farm would have generated 7.3 million gallons of liquid manure and used 8.8 million gallons of the area’s groundwater annually. The hogs would be owned by Holden Farms (Northfield, Minn.), one of the nation’s largest pork producers, and managed by Waukon Feed Ranch (Waukon, Iowa). It was proposed to be built in Minnesota’s vulnerable karst area, which is composed of porous limestone that creates sinkholes and disappearing springs. This geology can allow surface pollution to enter the groundwater in a matter of hours. As a result, this part of the state has long had problems with groundwater pollution.

Land Stewardship Project (LSP) members will continue to stand up for their rural community, the land and family farms. If Catalpa Ag chooses to reapply for a permit, LSP and its members will push for an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement.