This week, a northern Minnesota county advanced a large-scale hog feedlot project. Opponents say these operations are not what rural communities want and worry that corporate agriculture has too much of an advantage in getting approval. The feedlot was approved by the Becker County Board of Commissioners. A lengthier fight has been playing out regarding a proposed dairy expansion in Winona County. Grassroots activist and lawyer Sonja Trom Eayrs says it’s been an issue for her family’s farm in Dodge County, asserting that some planning commission members have had connections to factory farms. She says local residents should pay more attention to who is being elected to these boards.
The concerns are more pronounced during non-presidential elections when voter turnout isn’t as strong. And Eayrs says Farm Bureau offices sometimes recruit local candidates who might be sympathetic towards corporate agriculture. In a statement, the Minnesota office says it encourages members to be active in their communities but doesn’t directly coordinate with them to serve.
Despite Becker County’s approval, commissioners there warned about future requests and are considering a moratorium. Meanwhile, concerns about confined-animal feeding operations range from water pollution to crumbling roads in townships. Beyond that, Eayrs says the industry changes the complexity of rural communities by fueling a number of supply businesses.
According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, several Midwestern states lead the nation when it comes to the number of large, confined animal-feeding operations within their borders, including Minnesota and Iowa. Minnesota has roughly 1,500 such operations. Iowa has nearly 4,000.