New hog farm expansion permit approved in Winona County


Source: Agri-News

Despite a last-minute effort to get Holden Farms to participate in a pilot project on water quality monitoring, the Winona County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve a pair of conditional-use permits that will allow for expansion at two Holden Farms sites.


The first site, at 11253 Persons Drive just north of St. Charles, would increase its capacity by 538 animal units for a total of 1,498 AUs in hog confinement barns. The second site, on County Road 115 about a mile northwest of Utica, will increase its hog totals by 1,196.2 animal units for a total of 1,494 AUs.


“There are two issues that stuck out to me,” said commissioner Marie Kovecsi, who added Holden Farms will become the largest hog farm in the county with a combined 8 million gallons of manure annually. “It’s the volume of the manure I’m concerned with and the monitoring programs.”


Kovecsi was not the only person to oppose the pair of projects for Holden Farms. Doug Nopar, a county resident and a coordinator with the Land Stewardship Project, asked, “How will you make sure, if this operation is approved, that water quality is protected?”


Nopar said he was opposed to the feedlot expansion projects because of the potential dangers to groundwater and the hydrogen-sulfide coming from the hog barns. He suggested, as a way to shield the county, the Holdens should pay the county’s costs of monitoring and the enforcement of any permits.


Joe Morse, of Wilson Township, added, “These farms risk the water quality for the county, and you’re responsible for this. If you don’t deny these permits, you risk contaminating the groundwater further.”


Kovecsi said she would like to see the Holdens set up a pilot water quality project similar to one being conducted in the Root River watershed where containers are buried about 5-6 feet underground near a field edge, and the water trapped in those containers is monitored so the manure application process can be adjusted. “To me, it’s a win-win,” she said. “We can measure contamination at the farm level and be better stewards of our groundwater.”


Adding an extra condition on the day when the applicant is expecting a final vote seemed unfair, said commissioner Steve Jacob. “This feels like something we should address in our ordinance, not single out one individual,” he said. “I don’t disagree these are good practices, just that they should apply to all.”


Kovecsi, who called the Holdens’ application a “model proposal” and lauded them for their cooperation throughout the CUP process, said the farmers had been willing to take on several practices voluntarily as part of that process thus far. “This could be one more issue on a voluntary basis,” she said.


County Attorney Karin Sonneman said…


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