Largest Winona County farm denied expansion, appeal possible
WINONA COUNTY, Minn. (KTTC) – One of Winona County’s biggest diary producer is staying the same size, for now. Almost three years after its first denial, the Daley Farm of Lewiston, is getting another “no.”
“We’re disappointed, but we are not surprised,” Ben Daley said.
Not surprised, because Daley has been through this entire process before.
“We feel that there are some systemic things wrong with Winona County government,” he said.”
It all started in 2018, when the Daley farm submitted an application to the county for a waiver of the county’s 1,500 animal cap unit for feedlots. In their latest request, the Daleys asked to more than double it cattle herd, to nearly 6,000.
Critics of the expansion, like the Land Stewardship Project, worry about potential environmental impacts. The Sunday prior to the board meeting, a group gathered in protest as no public comment was permitted in the upcoming meeting.
“The animal cap was put in place because of the geology in Winona County,” Land Stewardship Project member Sam Streukens said.
Streukens, and his co-members, worry about groundwater, air pollution and believe there’s a better way to survive and thrive in the farming industry rather than operating at a factory level size. In regions like Winona County, groundwater is fragile as a result of some of the karst geology in southeastern Minnesota.
After the farm’s first denial in 2019, the Daley farm claimed that bias was involved in the vote, which resulted in the Minnesota court of Appeals sending the project back to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for a second public comment period and Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW).
“It was a lengthy process,” Daley said. “It took years to do. They looked at every aspect of our farm and determined it had no significant effect on the environment.”
Despite a state stamp of approval, the Winona County Board of Adjustment denied the Daley Farm in a 2-2 vote on Thursday. A bittersweet win for environmentalist like Streukens.
“It’s hard to be happy about the court ruling. They upheld the law, but at the same time, there’s a reason they had to expand,” Streukens said. “...I want to continue to work on ways that make Winona County a good place to live.”
But, the battle for the cattle, isn’t over yet. Daley said his family is looking into all avenues, but an appeal is likely.
“I think we’ve proven over time, and especially at the board meeting last Thursday, is that we are a benefit to the environment.”
Streuken doesn’t plan to let up either.
“If they do appeal, we’ll continue to educate and work together with the public to ensure an alternative to get big or get out model of agriculture that they are supporting,” he said.
Typically an appeal needs to be filed within 30 to 60 days.
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