From: Bruno Borsari
It was very disappointing to learn that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) failed to protect rural communities when, on January 4, it rejected the need request by the public for an in-depth environmental impact statement (EIS) about the proposed expansion of a Daley Farms’ dairy facility in Winona County. I find this decision by MCPA particularly grave especially after a request that was made by hundreds of citizens (including more than 100 Winona County residents), who demanded an EIS to be done for the proposed expansion. Daley Farms is already the largest dairy in Southeast Minnesota, exceeding the 1,500 limit on number of animal units allowed by Winona County. Its expansion would entail an addition of 3,000 cows, thus increasing the number of animal units to 5,968, which is almost four times the scale of its current operation size. Such an industrial scale of production would require 92 million gallons of water annually and yield 46 million gallons of raw manure and wastewater to be disposed every year. Would it not be imperative to assess how this gigantic water demand is going to affect the water needs of neighboring farms, including the city of Lewiston that, with a population of 1,564, consumes about 33 million gallons of water per year? In addition to this, factory farms like Daley Farms are notorious for posing grave risks to water quality by contaminating the supply with a cocktail of toxins and pathogens such as nitrates and coliform bacteria that are deleterious to public and environmental health. Even more questions come to mind when thinking about this farm expansion. For example:
• What is the point of having regulations in place limiting the maximum herd size while allowing Daley Farms to quadruple its cow population when it has been managing a herd that already exceeds the cap of allowable animals on a feedlot?
• What are the consequences this extractive and unsustainable approach to dairy production may have on the natural resource base of Winona County (soil, water, air, biodiversity), and most importantly, its people?
• What other impacts will the proposed expansion of this Daley Farms’ facility have on peoples’ livelihood and the economics of tourism in Winona County?
• How will local government stakeholders operate in the future should further expansion requests come forward by the Daley Farms, or by other farmers and/or businesses if this variance for expansion is granted?
The answers to these questions require assessment data that should be strongly linked to the findings of an unbiased EIS. Without this information a variance should not be granted! Therefore, I urge the members of the Board of Adjustment and the Planning Commission to act responsibly and decide wisely, before making the mistake of granting permission to change forever the distinctive landscape attributes of our beautiful county and put at risk the health and quality of life of all citizens.