Reorganization in Environmental Services changes feedlot priorities
During a lengthy meeting Nov 8, the Dodge County Commissioners signed a resolution to withdraw from the voluntary state Pollution Control Agency feedlot delegation agreement. This action will return enforcement and administration of the State’s Animal Feedlot Rules Chapter 7020 back to MPCA.
Steve Schmidt and Paul Brietzke from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency were at the meeting to inform the County Board what withdrawing from the voluntary feedlot program, or undelegating, would mean for the feedlot owners of Dodge County. In addition, the Olmsted County Feedlot Technician, Martin Larsen, was also at the meeting to provide information to the County Board on his experience working as a Feedlot Technician in an undelegated county, such as Olmsted. Mr. Larsen’s Feedlot Technician position duties includes working with feedlot owners, the MPCA and local units of government to help get feedlots into compliance with the Feedlot Rules through education, program assistance, technical evaluation and seeking cost-share, not regulation. In an undelegated county, such as Olmsted, MPCA is responsible for the administrative, regulatory and enforcement of Minnesota Rules Chapter 7020.
Schmidt and Brietzke pointed out to the commissioners that Dodge County Conditional Use Permits for feedlots will still go through the county zoning department as they are a county required land use permit. However, if the county chooses not to be delegated, the MPCA permits, such as the Construction Short Form and Interim Permits, would now be issued by the MPCA and not the County Feedlot Officer.
A CUP is a county land use permit in the Dodge County Zoning Ordinance for establishment or expansion of an animal feedlot of 500 animal units or more. If it is approved, it authorizes the property to be used for a feedlot. The CUP application goes to the Planning Commission for Public Hearing and the County Board makes the final decision on it. This is a Dodge County land use permit and they county’s decision to undelegate would not affect whether or not the county requires a CUP for a feedlot.
If the CUP is granted, the landowner still needs to get permits to physically construct the feedlot under the MPCA’s Animal Feedlot Rules, Chapter 7020. Under the current delegation agreement with the MPCA, the County Feedlot Officer has the authority to issue the MPCA 7020 Construction Short Form and Interim Permits. If the county chooses not to be delegated to administer the Animal Feedlot Rules, the MPCA will now be responsible for issuing the Construction Short Form and Interim Permits, rather than the Dodge County County Feedlot Officer.
In addition, MPCA would be conducting feedlot inspections and responding to complaints that are subject to the Animal Feedlot Rules, Chapter 7020. Brietzke made it clear if he goes to a farm for a complaint, he has statutory authority to handle the complaint. “I don’t have to hold anyone’s hand,” he said.
Environmental Services Director Mark Gamm stated that the proposal to withdraw is only one of several factors and is part of a larger Environmental Services department reorganization due to staffing changes and the shifting of duties. With the proposed changes, which includes undelegation, part of the Environmental Services levy along with Dodge County Soil and Water Conservation District funds are proposed to be used to jointly fund a Feedlot Technician position similar to that of Martin Larsen’s which will be housed out of the SWCD.
Documentation given to the commissioners stated:
1. The mandated aspects of the Delegation Agreement have become increasingly inefficient, duplicative and burdensome, without demonstrated corresponding increase in benefit to feedlot operators, citizens, or water resources.
2. The Agency’s feedlot program funding has not kept pace with the increasing requirements of the Delegation Agreement.
3. Dodge County resources can be used more effectively to provide feedlot services that focus on protecting water resources through education, technical assistance, and financial assistance while the Agency focuses on enforcement of state feedlot regulations.
4. Withdrawing from the Delegation Agreement does not reduce the county’s authority to regulate feedlots in accordance to the Dodge County Zoning Ordinance.
The commissioners approved a resolution withdrawing from the delegation agreement effective Dec 31.
Next, the county will enter an agreement with the Soil and Water Conservation District to provide feedlot technician duties.