AUSTIN EDITION Township shelves plans for dairy farm

By Joshua Lynsen

DODGE CENTER -- Plans to build a large-scale dairy operation near Dodge Center have been put on hold while local residents study the plans.

Officials in Dodge County's Ashland Township voted Monday to place a yearlong moratorium on the construction of farms with more than 640 cows. Landowner Ben Zaitz had hoped to build a dairy feedlot there to house about 1,000 cows.

Zaitz, who lives in New Jersey but owns hundreds of acres near Dodge Center, said Tuesday he was disappointed by the move.


"If you look at what's happening to dairy farming in Minnesota, it ain't pretty," he said. "Why is livestock agriculture being picked on so much? This is just a little disturbing."

Lee Bryngelson, a member of the Ashland Township Board, said Monday's vote was not an attack on the agriculture business. He said the moratorium is a necessary step to allow the township to plan for the future.

"We want something that will allow the people of our community to be able to continue with their livestock operations," he said. "What we're really dealing with is the future of the people in our community."

Residents who opposed Zaitz's plans praised the moratorium. They said more studying is needed to show how such operations could affect the environment, local property values and other factors.

"With an interim ordinance, we can now move ahead and develop balanced and reasonable guidelines that are good for family farmers, community residents and the land," said Earl Bowman, an Ashland Township farmer.

Dodge County officials were introduced to Zaitz's plans last year. He originally proposed two dairy feedlots -- one each in Ashland and Ripley townships -- to raise 4,200 cows total. Both sites cover more than 400 acres and are currently owned by Zaitz.

After receiving opposition to his plan for Ashland Township, Zaitz reduced the count for that feedlot to 990 cows. He said any more reductions could prevent the Dodge County project from being nationally competitive.

"You have to build livestock facilities that are competitive," he said, "and it takes about 3,000 to 4,000 head to be competitive."


Zaitz said "so-called environmental groups" will say anything to stop his dual-lot project. He said he wants to maintain an amicable relationship with residents of Dodge County, but he also wants to boost the state's sagging dairy industry.

"Minnesota has gone from being a dairy leader to fifth or sixth place and is dropping quickly," he said. "People who are trying to stop projects like this don't give a flip."

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