Farm Horizons, June 2012

No two ordinances are alike

By Lori Brinkman, Assistant Carver County Feedlot Administrator

Carver County is blessed with many things. We have beautiful lakes, fertile soils, fabulous parks and trail systems, and while we have a close connection to the Twin Cities metro area, we easily remain grounded, due to the small-town nature of many of our communities.

All of this diversity within our borders lends to variable land use throughout the county. Despite the variety, Carver County remains strongly agricultural, ranking 13th in the state for the number of dairy cows, and 38th for the number of hogs and pigs. Beef, sheep, and goat facilities can also be found throughout our borders. Although equestrian facilities are classified as a non-agricultural activity, horses are still livestock, and with about 40 such facilities in Carver County, care must still be taken to manage them, so that sensitive areas are protected.

Not to be forgotten, our closely neighboring counties, Wright, McLeod, Sibley, and Meeker are 11th, 15th, 16th, and 17th in the state for the number of dairy cows; and 54th, 51st, 26th, and 47th for hogs and pigs. While beef production is not as prevalent in these counties, its impact is still felt in the agricultural economy. These are impressive numbers indeed.

Equally impressive is the fact that both Carver and Wright counties grew by nearly 30 percent in the last decade, with Wright County cited as the 73rd fastest-growing county in the US.

With the diversity and growth that surrounds us, sometimes difficult decisions must be made by our elected officials in adopting ordinances to balance differing and evolving land uses.

In the world of feedlot regulation, Chapter 7020, which is within Minnesota Rules 2000, provides the framework of Minnesota feedlot regulation.

Minnesota’s regulatory feedlot program includes an optional arrangement between the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and county government. This cooperative program is known as county delegation, or the county feedlot program.

County feedlot programs are responsible for the implementation of feedlot rules and regulations, with the exception of large feedlots that require federal permits. Fifty-five counties, including most of the major feedlot areas, participate in the county feedlot program.

A county feedlot program is established by the transfer of regulatory authority from the MPCA to the county. This transfer of authority is granted by statute, and it allows the MPCA to delegate administration of certain parts of the feedlot program to counties. County feedlot programs have responsibility for implementing state feedlot regulations, including registration, permitting, inspections, education and assistance, and complaint follow-up.

In addition to Chapter 7020, many of Minnesota’s delegated counties have adopted their own feedlot ordinances, which can be more restrictive than the state rule.

Most ordinances address setback requirements among land uses. For instance, new feedlots typically have to observe a setback to an existing home. A reciprocal setback is also required of individuals requesting to construct a new home near an existing feedlot.

No two county feedlot ordinances are the same, and sometimes individual townships within a county have adopted their own feedlot policies to deal with their own land use pressures.

This is the case in Carver County, with Watertown and Laketown townships being more restrictive than the western and southern townships.

On the other hand, Wright County has chosen to require a conditional use permit for a new feedlot of 50 to 300 animal units that wishes to locate within one-half mile of certain municipalities.

Very different approaches indeed, but they realize different growth pressures within the respective counties.

I urge you to get to know your county feedlot ordinance and proposed land use changes, contact your feedlot administrator with personal inquiries, stay informed and involved if there are any proposed changes to your ordinance, and, most of all, be a respectful neighbor.

We may not be able to completely control the changes that face us, but we have the power to shape them.

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