Renville County delays large feedlot decision

OLIVIA -- Renville County's board of commissioners agreed Tuesday to postpone a decision on a permit request for a large hog confinement project after hearing opposition to it from neighbors.

OLIVIA -- Renville County's board of commissioners agreed Tuesday to postpone a decision on a permit request for a large hog confinement project after hearing opposition to it from neighbors.

The commissioners will consider the permit for the RANCO LLC., project at their Nov. 22 meeting.

"It is going too fast," said David Hovda, one of a group of neighbors who voiced their opposition to the project.

Roger and Nancy Punt of Renville are seeking a permit to erect two confinement buildings to hold a total of 4,800 head of feeder pigs at a farm site in Section One of Wang Township. The site is near the border with Chippewa County and southeast of Maynard.

The county's planning and zoning commission voted four-to-three on Oct. 17 to recommend approval of a conditional use permit for the project. The 4,800-head operation represents 1,920 animal units in Renville County, and is just below the 2,000 a.u. maximum allowed by county ordinance. The animals would be raised as part of the Holland Pork operation based in Prinsburg.


Mark Erickson, the county's environment and community development director told the commissioners that the application for the feedlot was one of the most thorough ever submitted to the county. An Environmental Assessment Worksheet showed no significant adverse environmental or health impacts. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's citizen board reviewed the proposal on Sept. 27 and determined that a more extensive, Environmental Impact Study would not be required. But the proposal faces strong opposition from neighbors to the site. They voiced their concerns about possible health effects from emissions of dust and gasses, as well as the potential of odor, water contamination and harm to neighboring property values.

Jerry Schwitters, a farmer who lives near the site, said he suffers from bronchitis.

He was told by his physician that a hog confinement operation could aggravate his condition and that he should avoid it.

Ardell Brouwer said that he and his wife Cathy are worried about the health of their three children, who suffer from allergies and asthma. The family moved from Clara City to escape dust from the elevator operation. Their home is one mile from the site now proposed for the hog operation.

Mary Regnier of Maynard, speaking for the citizens, said bio-filters should be required on the buildings.

Regnier said an earthen dike should also be required between the confinement buildings and Judicial Ditch 1, which flows into Chetomba Creek. The ditch is located 310 feet from the proposed building site and is about 12 to 15 feet lower in elevation. Any spill of manure from the barns would reach it quickly, she said.

Regnier and others also voiced concerns about the manure management plan for the project. The manure would be kept in eight-foot deep pits below the barns with the capacity to hold 12- to 16-months worth of waste. It would be injected on land owned by Gene Schwitters of Clara City near the site.

Roger Punt indicated that he is willing to take steps to make the project more acceptable to its neighbors. "We want something that is positive for everybody," he told the commissioners.


Punt said that he was willing to install biofilters on the confinement buildings, even though the type of power ventilated structures he proposes to erect are very effective at reducing odor emissions. The buildings are capable of reducing odors by more than 90 percent, he said.

Erickson said the biofilters will improve the reduction of odors in the buildings from 96 percent to 99 percent.

The county has other large feedlots, but this is the first of this size proposed in Wang Township. David Hovda said the commissioners should consider that while the estimated, $1 million project would pay property taxes of $1,000 to $1,200 a year, it would lower the values of farm homes near it. He said there are 15 building sites within a 2.5 mile radius of the site that would be affected.

The commissioners expressed concerns of their own, ranging from a proposal by Ralph Novotny of Hector for a moratorium on large feedlot permits to a request by John Stahl of Olivia to review Chippewa County's feedlot ordinance. Many of the neighbors affected by the proposal are Chippewa County residents, he noted.

Commissioner Gale Dahlager of Sacred Heart, who represents Wang Township, said there are questions that need to be answered and urged that a decision on the permit be delayed.

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