When you look at the bills being pushed at our state Capitol this year, it appears many legislators think that what people living in rural and small town Minnesota want are more factory farms and less of a say in what happens in our community. Nothing is further from reality.

But reality at the Capitol, where corporate lobbyists line the halls, is different from our reality in rural Minnesota. Bills are being pushed in St. Paul to weaken local control and township rights and to take away the right to use the courts to hold factory farms accountable.

One of the worst bills would double the size of large livestock operations before environmental review is required. Senate File 1016 by Sen. Weber and House File 1456 by Rep. Swedzinski.

Currently factory farms over 1,000 animal units must undergo environmental review. This bill would double that to 2,000. Feedlots over 1,000 animal units are the largest 7 percent of livestock operations in our state. The current threshold of 1,000 animal units is so large that only nine livestock operations were required to do an environmental review in 2016 (1,000 animal units is 3,333 hogs, 714 dairy cows, and 1,000 steer, 20,000 chickens).

The overwhelming majority of family livestock operations in Minnesota are well below this threshold. Environmental review is important because it gives neighbors a chance to understand what is being proposed and the chance to review and weigh in on the proposal. Without environmental review, the first neighbors might learn about a project is when they see the bulldozers arrive and construction begin on a multi-million-gallon hog manure lagoon.

It is simple. Rural people do not want laws passed to help corporate interests sneak factory farms into our community. We want environmental review on large factory farms.

Let your state representative and senator know that you oppose this legislation to keep rural Minnesota strong.

Paul Sobocinski is a hog farmer and Land Stewardship Project organizer. 

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