Dairy opponents debate the Dublin Township proposal
MURDOCK -- Opponents of a proposed 6,600 head dairy in Dublin Township of Swift County voiced their concerns Thursday evening at a town hall style meeting, just days before the county's planning and zoning commission is to consider a conditional ...
MURDOCK -- Opponents of a proposed 6,600 head dairy in Dublin Township of Swift County voiced their concerns Thursday evening at a town hall style meeting, just days before the county's planning and zoning commission is to consider a conditional use permit for the project.
Both supporters and opponents of the East Dublin Dairy operation filled the Murdock community center, although few of the project's supporters spoke during the meeting. It was hosted by Swift County Citizens for Responsible Growth.
The local citizen's group has filed a civil lawsuit challenging an Oct. 25 decision by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency not to require a full-blown Environmental Impact Study of the proposed dairy, which would be the state's largest if built.
Members of the citizen's group believe that the county's feedlot ordinance favors the development of large confined animal feedlot operations like the one being proposed, according to Pete Kennedy, a Murdock resident who organized the group. "Our backs are up against the wall," Kennedy told the large crowd. "We're definitely at a disadvantage."
Kennedy and others opposed to the dairy cited possible harm both to the local community as well as the environment as the basis for their concerns.
"The community aspects are just as devastating as the environmental impacts may be," said Kennedy.
He charged that the dairy will not create economic opportunity for the area. It would only serve to reduce property values in Murdock and Kerkhoven, which are both only a couple of miles from the site of the proposed dairy.
Dairy farmers, including Joe Rosemeier, said they believed the large operation would displace small, family-owned farms.
Rosemeier said that the market for dairy products is only growing by one to two percent a year. The production from the large East Dublin Dairy will take away the market for other, smaller producers.
Calling it an agri-business and not a farm, resident Dorothy Rosemeier said that the trend towards consolidated ownership is harming family farms. The trend, she said, is to "get bigger and bigger and push somebody else out of business."
Others voiced concerns about what they believe will be adverse environmental consequences. The concerns focused on possible problems with odors, flies, and fears that shallow aquifers could be contaminated by wastes from the operation.
The manure will be held in a 53-million gallon, open manure pit that will be lined with clay. Speakers said it will be five-football fields long, and have a perimeter large enough to be lined by 40, 100-foot "lake" lots.
Brian Wojtalewicz, an Appleton attorney who served on the county's feedlot task force, said the county would make its citizens guinea pigs by allowing what he called a large, open "cesspool."
"I don't want my county to become an experiment like Renville County became," he said in reference to the open hog waste lagoons that were eventually banned.
While most supporters of the dairy did not offer comments at the meeting, a few did. They cited a need to develop the state's livestock industry and the success of the 2,000 head, West Dublin Dairy as reasons for their support.
Mitch Tofte, who lives within 1 1/2 miles of the proposed dairy, said large, permitted feedlot operations such as the one being proposed have a good track record and contribute to the local economy. Tofte said he would like to organize a group to support the Dublin project, and urged those present to join him.
Gerald Tofte, who described himself as a small livestock producer, said agriculture needs a vibrant livestock sector in the state, and more must be done to support it.
Others, like dairy farmer Randy Olson, said he also supports the livestock industry, but would rather see a number of 100 to 500-head dairy operations scattered about the county, than one or two mega-sized operations.
Other speakers also cited their desire for a rural landscape that would include more farm families. "Farms are getting bigger and the schools are getting smaller," said Pete Kennedy of the group.
"It's not the right formula."
People from both sides of the issue will have their say at 7 p.m. on Monday in the basement of the Swift County courthouse in Benson. County commissioner Doug Anderson said the planning commission will allow citizens to voice their opinions on the project when it considers the conditional use permit. The county board of commissioners are expected to act on the conditional use permit request on Jan. 17, he said.