Open for comment: Environmental review for proposed hog expansion in Freeborn County

Contact: Cathy Rofshus, 507-206-2608

Rochester, Minn. — Jensen Family Farms of rural Hartland in Freeborn County is proposing a major expansion of its hog business. Feedlot operator Brady Jensen plans to increase the number of wean-to-finish hogs from 2,400 in one existing barn to a total of 9,600 in four barns. As required by state rules, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) completed an Environmental Assessment Worksheet on the expansion, which is open for public comment through July 9.

State agencies use the worksheet to decide whether a more thorough Environmental Impact Statement is needed. The worksheet covers site location details, nearby resources including wells, soil types, water use, manure management, air and odor emissions, traffic and other elements.

Located in sections 17 and 18 of Bath Township, east of Hartland and northwest of Clarks Grove, the farm operation would build three additional barns with concrete manure pits underneath.

Manure management is one concern with feedlots. According to the environmental worksheet, the feedlot would generate about 3 million gallons of manure per year. The total manure storage capacity would be 3.9 million gallons, with the extra storage designed to prevent overflow problems. Twice a year, in spring and fall, the farmer would pump or haul the manure to tankers for application to cropland as fertilizer. The feedlot would also transfer manure to area farmers to be used as a cropland fertilizer.

The barn and manure application sites are mostly agricultural and used for crop production. Twenty-two homes are located within one mile of the feedlot and three homes, including the proposer’s and family members’, are within or near the application sites.

State rules prohibit manure application near homes, churches and cities, as well as lakes, streams, open tiles and wells.

Air quality is another concern with feedlots. Based on a computer simulation, the expanded feedlot would meet state air quality standards and would not significantly increase odors.

The full worksheet for this project is available on the MPCA website by searching for “MPCA environmental worksheet.”  It is also available by calling Beth Tegdesch at 651-757-2100. Comments, which must be in writing, should be mailed to Charles Peterson, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Rd. N., St. Paul, MN 55155, or emailed to charles.peterson@state.mn.us.

The proposed feedlot requires federal, state and county permits. The MPCA will issue coverage under the National Pollution Disposal Elimination System and State Disposal System (NPDES/SDS) permit. The issuance of the NPDES/SDS permit also requires a public notice. This is available online by searching for “MPCA public notices” and then scrolling down to the June 9 list. Comments on the permit, which must be in writing, should be summited to Paul Brietzke, MPCA, 18 Wood Lake Drive, Rochester, MN 55904, or emailed to paul.brietzke@state.mn.us.

All comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on July 9.

The proposed Jensen feedlot expansion would also need a water appropriation permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources because it would use 6.1 million gallons of water from an onsite well annually.

The feedlot is located in the Le Sueur River watershed, meaning runoff ultimately drains to the Le Sueur River, a tributary to the Blue Earth River and then the Minnesota River.