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Letter: Proposed ordinance change abandons clarity to serve special interests

To the editor:

I farm in Goodhue County, and I don’t believe the proposed ordinance changes are a good idea (Article 11 – Performance Standards, Section 24 – Preservation of Farming Practices).

This ordinance defines our shared expectations for best agricultural practices, good stewardship of our farmland, our livestock, our waters, and quality of life for all of us. It should stand. It should not be changed.

Proposed by one of the largest feedlot owners in the county, the changes would eliminate the county's recognition that feedlots of 1,000 animal units or more may be at greater risk for problems or "nuisance" because of their size and animal concentration: 1,000 cows/10,000 piglets/3,333 finishing hogs/2,500 sows.

These changes also abandon the clear statements defining when a farming operation may become a "nuisance" and the potential risks that the county understands about these large feedlots.

Nobody wants their farming operation to be called a "nuisance." That term just means there's a serious problem with a farming operation whose actions may cause any of these harms described in Section 24:

  • injury from negligence or improper agricultural operation
  • ignoring State or local laws and ordinances
  • injury or threat to health or safety
  • pollution of waters

These standards should not be eliminated. They are clear, reasonable and cautionary descriptions of what we should NOT DO. And I believe we don't because farming neighbors have an unspoken understanding that we will use our best farming practices to maintain and improve the quality of our farmland, our livestock, our farming operations and our lives. I believe we live together and share values that contribute to our common good. And we solve our problems cooperatively.

But when a farming operation causes problems, and face-to-face communication doesn't work, we need these well-specified standards to reinforce our expectations of each other.

There are over 1,000 small farming operations in Goodhue County and only 22 feedlots of 1,000 animal units or more. Our carefully developed ordinance should serve all of us, not be changed to serve this small special interest group.

You can contact the Planning Advisory Commission members: and County Commissioners:

Beth Slocum