As we reported last September, Lowell Franzen, the feedlot officer in southern Minnesota’s Mower County, obtained a feedlot permit in his name for a 4,800-sow hog confinement facility. He then sold the permit and 14 acres of land to representatives of Holden Farms, Inc., for $292,000. That alone raised suspicions that Holden Farms used Lowell Franzen as a taxpayer-funded decoy so it could sneak thousands of pigs and millions of gallons of liquid manure into the community. Now the plot thickens. Land Stewardship Project members in Mower County have recently uncovered a purchase agreement between Nick Holden and Lowell Franzen signed on July 9, 2006 — two months before any permits were applied for. In the purchase agreement, Holden agreed to reimburse Franzen for the costs of getting the permit and pay him $264,000 for the land with the permit. (LSP has all the relevant documents and an updated timeline on this evolving issue at our website.) As of July 9, 2006, this was a Holden controlled-operation, but that fact was kept from neighbors and government permitting agencies.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency feedlot rules are clear in the definition of a feedlot owner, stating: “Owner means all persons having possession, control [emphasis added], or title to an animal feedlot or manure storage area.” (7020.0300 Definitons. Subp. 17.) Through this purchase agreement, as of July 9, 2006, Holden had control of the feedlot and was therefore an owner. By law, Holden should have been listed on the feedlot permit application along with Franzen, but was not. Despite this evidence, the only official action taken to date is that Franzen has been placed on paid administrative leave. What with purchase agreements, permit applications and various other documents laying out a consistently crooked paper trail, it’s getting increasingly difficult for MPCA and Mower County officials to deny that this situation reeks of corruption.