Concerns Arise With Possible Regulation Changes To CAFO’s

MINNEHAHA, Co. – Policies may change for farmers who build indoor livestock operations in Minnehaha County. Tuesday, commissioners are expected to vote on the distance between these operations and other buildings, like where you work, or worship. The proposal is concerning a grassroots conservation group that claims these livestock farms are harmful to people’s health.

It’s a lengthy name: concentrated animal feeding operation, with a fairly simple definition.

“Typically the animals are housed some kind of a structure, barn or station and the feed is provided,” says planning director for Minnehaha County, Scott Anderson. “They may move freely into that building from an area that is outdoors.”

While the concept is easy to understand, not everyone is on board. Kristi Mogen with Dakota Rural Action has plenty of reservations about these livestock facilities.

“They get clean air in, they send dirty air out,” she explains.

Right now there are more than 100 operations knows as CAFO’s in Minnehaha County. They vary in size. Some only house 250 animals, while others are much bigger.

“We have a dairy that has several thousand animal units in the northeast side of the county,” says Anderson.

Under the current county rules, a CAFO with 2,000 or more animals is required to be 4,600 ft. away from churches and businesses. But commissioners could vote to reduce that to 3,900 ft., or 3/4ths of a mile. Dakota Rural Action says the less restrictive setbacks are worrisome.

“With the factories comes air pollution,” says Mogen. “Not only does it have air pollution and heavy particulates, but it also gives back pathogens.”

“We monitor it,” says Anderson. “There’s certainly a concern. The county is always concerned about these, we want to make sure they operate to the best of the ability, they follow state laws, and

they follow the county zoning regulations.”

The change could also affect municipalities.

“In the previous ordinance there was a setback that you had to be away from a city and I think it was a mile,” explains Anderson. “That setback is still in place, however there is an option for the mayor and city council to take action to provide a waiver if they don’t have any issue.”

Under a watchful eye, the county says these changes could help the farming industry move forward.

“The primary use out in the county is agriculture,” says Anderson. ”So we are actively looking at methods to promote agriculture and to help farmers and [agriculture] producers.”

The county says it’s not a company that’s prompting this change, since they haven’t had a CAFO application submitted since winter. Instead, they say they’re just updating their 20-year-old zoning ordinance.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on this item tomorrow at 9 a.m.

CORRECTION: This article originally said a CAFO would have to 3/4 of mile away from a school if the proposal passed, the correct amount is 1 mile away from a school.

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