LEWISTON — Daley Farms got its permit again.
Friday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency again approved the findings of fact and conclusions of law and order of the environmental assessment worksheet for the Daleys' proposed expansion of the family-owned dairy farm.
The ruling means the project proposal will not need to undergo a more stringent environmental impact statement, and the permit the Daleys were issued for the expansion in January 2019 will be reissued, said Katrina Kessler, assistant MPCA commissioner for water and ag policy.
Since the proposed project was permitted in 2019, the Daleys have faced an appeal filed by the Land Stewardship Project and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. While the Minnesota Court of Appeals found nothing wrong with the findings of fact at the time, the court ruled the MPCA had not considered the impact of greenhouse gas emissions and reversed the approval of the permit, ordering the MPCA to evaluate greenhouse gases as well.
That study, Kessler said, found the project would produce 34,400 tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents. This is about a third of the total that would trigger an EAW in any other industry.
Kessler also noted that while public comments added to the agency's concerns over nitrate contamination of the groundwater in the karst geology around Daley Farms, all the concerns brought up in the new public comment period were already addressed by the EAW when it was completed in 2018 and approved in early 2019.
Randy Hukriede, manager of the MPCA feedlot program, noted the approval of the EAW came with conditions that would mitigate groundwater contamination such as expanded use of cover crops, greater setbacks in manure application and a higher threshold of agronomic certainty in applying nitrates to fields as part of the Daleys' manure management plan.
Furthermore, Hukriede noted, the additional 26 million gallons of fertilizer produced by the expansion would not add to the amount of nitrates applied to the field but would replace a similar amount of commercial fertilizer that is already applied to those fields.
"With the application of manure you build up soil organic matter," Hukriede said, "So, more organic matter decreases leaching, so it does have some additional benefits that aren’t realized with commercial fertilizer."
Shelly DePestel, one of the owners of Daley Farms, said with the permit for expansion approved, the Daleys will restart their lawsuit against Winona County for denying a variance of the county's 1,500 animal unit cap for feedlots. The proposal would expand Daley Farms to nearly 6,000 animal units.