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Letter: Don't double factory farm size

Some legislators believe that bigger is better, but that's not true when it comes to feedlot size. This week the Senate will hear File 1087 (Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria) that would allow for doubling the size of a factory farm, from 1,000 animal units to 2,000, before an environmental review would be required. This file has been added to a bill that would eliminate the Environmental Quality Board and other protections that keep our soil, water and our own good health safe.

Without a good environmental review process in place, these huge operations with multi-million gallon manure pits/lagoons could be permitted and neighbors might not know until big machinery arrived and started digging. Local farmers and residents need to be able to protect their property values and quality of life. Too much manure, even knifed into cropland, can cause runoff that contaminates streams and rivers and noxious odors and dangerous gasses that can harm our neighbors' health.

Thirty-five years ago when I started farming in Vasa Township, most farms in Goodhue County combined crop farming with raising livestock. You'll remember what that was like if you grew up here or farmed here decades ago. Family farming was our common experience.

The corporate idea that factory farms would be "better" dramatically changed our landscape. But factory farms aren't better — not for sustainable farming or for families or for rural towns and cities. We've lost schools, elevators, veterinarians, grocery stores, hardware stores, corner cafes because we've lost farmers; they could no longer sustain their families on a family farm. We need to do better for our established and beginning farmers. Bigger is not better.

Please contact your representative and senator today and tell them not to limit the power of citizens, townships or local governments to protect our land, water and people. Don't allow factory farm feedlots to double in size with no review. We need the Environmental Quality Board to set the standards for best practices.

Beth Slocum

Vasa Township