ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced Friday it had approved an environmental assessment worksheet — and will not require the more stringent environmental impact statement — for the expansion of the Daley Farms feedlot near Lewiston.
"We’re happy science won instead of other things, like feelings and emotion," said Ben Daley, owner of Daley Farms, a dairy that plans to expand from just fewer than 1,728 cows (2,275 animal units) to 4,628 cows (5,967 AU).
Daley said the MPCA’s decision not to require an EIS is important because it gives the farm more than 1,000 pages of supporting evidence that the proposed expansion of the dairy will not pose "the potential for significant environmental effects," as the statement from MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine reads.
"The decision for a Negative Declaration completes the state environmental review process," Stine’s statement reads. "Final governmental decisions on the granting of permits or approvals for the project may now be made."
For Daley Farms, that means taking its case before the county’s board of adjustments for a variance on the county’s 1,500 AU cap on feedlots. Daley Farms is already above that cap, but was grandfathered into its current levels which were in place before the cap was set.
Daley said he hopes board of adjustment members read the findings of facts from the MPCA and use that information, not the emotions of opponents to the project, to vote.
Daley said the dairy would have a better idea of its future after Jan. 8 when the Winona County Board is sworn in for the next session, the board chair is selected — according to the rotation schedule, that will be Commissioner Steve Jacob unless the board changes that rule — and the empty seats on the board of adjustment are filled.
"If they fill these with (Land Stewardship Project) yes-men, that says a lot about what the (county board) will do," Daley said.
Several individuals who have applied for open seats on the board of adjustments, including Amy Cordry and Rachel Stoll, have made public comments against the planned expansion of the dairy. Cordry is one of many Land Stewardship Project members who have taken part in the campaign against the dairy expansion.