Winona County protects drinking water from industrial feedlot pollution

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(ABC 6 News) – On Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, a Minnesota court upheld Winona County’s ability to limit sizes of animal feedlots, protecting residential drinking water sources from nitrate pollution.

The Winona County District Court affirmed the Winona County Board of Adjustment’s decision to deny a variance request to Daley Farm, one of the area’s largest feedlots.

Winona County Board of Adjustment defines a variance as “deviations from the literal provisions of this ordinance in instances where their strict enforcement would cause practical difficulties because of physical circumstances unique to the individual property under consideration… when it is demonstrated that such actions will be in keeping with the spirit and intent of this ordinance.”

At the time of its request, Daley Farm exceeded the 1,500 animal cap, deeming existing facilities as “nonconforming use.”

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Court document’s state “Daley Farm claimed: ‘In addition to economic considerations, Daley Farms’ variance request is also motivated by non-economic motivations to reduce the environmental impact of the farm.'”

However, the court identified that Daley Farm’s expansion plan would only meet and remedy current environmental violations, nulling the farm’s “economic consideration.”

Upon initial request for variance request, Daley Farm’s requested multiple extensions, delaying hearings for its variance request.

According to court documents, “In the end, Daley Farm’s requested extensions delayed the remand hearing by more than seven months.” The county eventually allowed Daley Farm to proceed with modernization projects without, however its variance request.

This decision comes after the EPA directed state agencies to take immediate action against water pollution, saying “there is an evident need for further actions to safeguard public health.”

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, the organization prosecuting Daley Farm, estimated had the variance been approved Daley Farm would create “46 million gallons of manure and wastewater annually.”

Read the full court summary here