By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership – (@mattjdoll)
On Monday, October 14 the Minnesota Court of Appeals made a significant ruling in the case of Daley Farms, a Winona County dairy operation proposing to more than double the number of animals in its feed lot. Issuing a decision on a suit brought by MEP members Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) and Land Stewardship Project (LSP), the Court declared that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) had failed to assess greenhouse gas emissions that the feedlot expansion would create. For that reason, the MPCA permit for Daley Farmsis has been blocked. Though not a total victory for environmental advocates, this is important work by MCEA and LSP, and we thank them for their efforts on behalf of Winona County residents.
This is by no means the end of the story on the Daley Farms expansion. Daley Farms and the MPCA are both likely to take steps to update and reestablish the permit. On the other hand, Daley Farms is also engaged in a court case against Winona County, which has a local limit on the size of feedlots that may block the project entirely.
Regardless, it’s encouraging to see the Court of Appeals recognizing and emphasizing the MPCA’s obligation to take climate impacts into account. But it’s clear that the system we have for considering and regulating factory farms and other large industries is not adequately protecting Minnesota. 40% of our waters are considered impaired. Animal and crop agriculture is one of the three largest sectors of greenhouse gas emissions in our state.
Last week, we covered the crisis impacting Minnesota agriculture, leaving small farms struggling across the state. This crisis has been exacerbated by climate change. But it has been set in motion by a farm policy system that does not prioritize keeping farmers on the land, improving soil and water health, protecting pollinators, or adapting to climate change, but instead seeks to maximize the translation of our natural resources into profits.
The Daley Farms case is a microcosm of a greater challenge facing Minnesotans: how do we ensure that agriculture in our state is restorative – not harmful – to people, land, water, and climate? How do we find a way to make protecting our fragile resources a primary concern, rather than an afterthought on a rubber-stamped permit?
It’s clear that reforms are needed in our laws, government agency oversight, and economic structures so that Minnesota’s state government acts on these values.