Winona court affirms county’s right to cap farm animal units

Animal Cap Affirmed in Winona County

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(ABC 6 News) – A Winona County District Court upheld the county’s ability to limit the size of large animal feedlots in a decision Tuesday.

The ruling came after the Daley farm requested to expand their facility and increase its number of animal units to 5,967.7, according to court documents.

Daley farm already exceeds the county’s cap of 1,500 animals, with 2,275.2 animal units, according to court documents. However, the law allows this because the farm existed before the cap was in place.

Daley farm hoped to expand after a new generation of the Daley family came home to work on the farm.

“This decision really surprised us. We’re disappointed with it, but it also really surprised us,” said co-owner Ben Daley.

Ben Daley says they do not plan to open up more, smaller sites, like the county suggested as a way to work around the animal cap.

“Everybody from the [Minnesota Pollution Control Agency] to the county levels knows that would cause more pollution and cause more problems,” said Daley.

Earlier this month, the EPA requested state agencies take action to protect drinking water across eight counties in southeast Minnesota, including Winona.

— RELATED: EPA tells MN agencies to act on water contamination

Because of the unique geology of the Karst region that makes it susceptible to pollution, animal caps are important to limit the amount of nitrates entering the soil and groundwater.

“The county decided years ago that due to karst geology that is present here in Winona county, it’s very vulnerable to pollution, and they decided to put a cap on the number of animal units,” said Kelley Stanage, a member of Land Stewardship Project (LSP).

LSP has been fighting the Daley farm’s expansion since it was first requested in 2018.

“I want to protect our land, our water, our people,” said Karen Ahrens, LSP committee member.

Policy Director of LSP, Sean Carroll, says limiting the expansion of Daley farm will help keep more farmers on the land.

“We believe more farmers on the land is how you build strong rural economies,” said Carroll.

LSP says this ruling is an affirmation of the campaign they’ve run to protect the land and water in Winona County.

Daley farm plans to appeal the district court’s decision, but until then, it will continue business as usual.