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Ostlie leaves Kandiyohi County for new livestock development specialist position in Dept. of Ag

WILLMAR -- For the last three years, Jim Ostlie has educated Kandiyohi County livestock farmers about environmental regulations pertaining to manure management. And he has enforced those regulations.

As the county feedlot officer he has also helped farmers work through the maze of paperwork to properly site new and expanding feedlots.

Starting Wednesday, Ostlie will begin a new job with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture as a livestock development specialist. The job will let him continue to educate farmers and promote agriculture in Minnesota without having to do the nasty enforcement routine.

"I prefer to be a marketer and promoter rather than an enforcer," Ostlie said.

He said he's enjoyed working with livestock producers in the county and the opportunity he's had to help them understand and meet regulations about manure management. But he hasn't liked being the tough guy.

"I don't know too many people that really enjoy enforcement," Ostlie said.

Ostlie will be filling a newly created position with the agricultural marketing and research division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture that is designed to help individual farmers site feedlots, incorporate new manure-management technology and bring new livestock operations to the state.

Ostlie will serve as a source of education about animal agriculture and a buffer between rural residents and livestock producers who experience community opposition to new or expanded feedlots.

He will help the farmer complete paperwork to meet environmental and regulatory requirements for a feedlot and will also take on the finer art of public relations by talking to a farmer's neighbors, township officers or county commissioners about their concerns with a proposed feedlot.

Of the 87 counties in Minnesota, 54 have feedlot officers that will help farmers meet regulation, but most don't take on the role of being an advocate for livestock producers.

Ostlie, who will work from his home office in Paynesville, will be able to help fill that gap for farmers all over the state.

As part of his job, Ostlie will spend a portion of his time writing grants that could be used to obtain funding for new on-farm technology such as manure digesters that can capture methane gas to be used for energy. He will also be visiting ag shows all over the country to try to entice livestock operators to relocate or expand in Minnesota.

Ostlie said he's looking forward to the challenge of his new job, but is very pleased with the progress that has been made in Kandiyohi County on manure management.

The biggest past challenge has been to educate farmers about why the regulations are necessary for any feedlot more than 300 animal units, and to help them comply with the rules.

A big piece of the education has been to teach farmers that manure isn't a "waste product" to "get rid of" on the closest field, but is a valuable asset that needs to be applied in measured amounts, away from streams, lakes and tile inlets, that will benefit crops and reduce environmental harm.

He has made personal visits to about 400 of the approximately 500 registered feedlots in the county.

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Dennis Peterson praised Ostlie for using "a lot of good common sense" when working with farmers to implement regulations.

Harlan Madsen, chairman of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, said there have been only positive comments regarding Ostlie's work in the county. Madsen said Ostlie has set the bar high for whoever is hired to take his place.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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