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Home > Animals & Livestock > Livestock Resources > Dairy Memorandum of Understanding > Livestock Advisory Task Force

Governor Tim Pawlenty's Livestock Advisory Task Force

Local Siting Sub-committee Recommendations - January 2005

The Local Siting Committee (committee) recognizes the economic significance of Minnesota's livestock industry and its importance to rural communities and the state, and believes that diversity of species and of sizes and types of livestock facilities is critical to maintain the vitality of the livestock industry and of the overall state economy. The committee's goal is to maintain Minnesota 's commitment to local government zoning and environmental quality while at the same time improving the transparency, predictability, cost effectiveness, fairness and civility of the local siting process. The committee recommends a multi-part strategy for achieving these important goals.

1. Training and Technical Assistance. The committee recognizes that an important factor in local livestock siting is the expectations of the local unit of government, the project proposer, and other interested parties and whether their expectations are similar.

  1. Development of Checklist: To clarify the expectations of the siting process, the committee recommends development of a checklist that would provide a template for consideration of the project, including those steps necessary for permitting the feedlot. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) would provide the federal and state requirements for the checklist and the local unit of government would provide, to the extent possible, the various regulatory and procedural requirements that apply in that local jurisdiction. The checklist will be prepared by the MDA and customized by local government units. The checklist would also be provided to the project proposer(s) at the initiation of the permit process and is intended to reduce confusion and increase the transparency of the approval process.
  2. Training and Assistance Program: The committee also recommends development of a comprehensive training and technical assistance program for local government officials. The program would provide information and training on livestock siting issues and would be based on an updated version of the 1996 handbook Planning and Zoning for Animal Agriculture in Minnesota . Training would commence as soon as possible following the updating of this document by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), with an expected handbook completion date of no later than October 1, 2005. MDA would update the handbook in consultation with the Local Planning Assistance Center (LPAC) of the Minnesota Department of Administration. As soon as possible after the handbook is updated, MDA would assist LPAC to provide training programs to local government officials on planning and zoning for animal agriculture. The goal is to complete the first phase of the training process within one year of finishing the Handbook update, with training to be offered on an on-going basis in the future. In addition to training on planning and zoning, the program will include, but not be limited to, information on the rural economic impact of animal agriculture, use of GIS modeling, cost factors associated with local government involvement, and the environmental review process. To help facilitate the training, supplemental funding would be sought from a combination of public and private sources.

In developing this training and technical assistance program, the committee recommends MDA and LPAC rely on the guidance and support of an advisory team including:

  • Producer organizations (representing the state's major livestock sectors);
  • Agricultural organizations (Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Farmers Union and Minnesota Association of Cooperatives);
  • Local government associations (AMC, MAT, League of Cities);
  • Academic institutions ( University of Minnesota , Minnesota State Colleges and Universities);
  • State agencies; and
  • Education/training professionals.

As a possible incentive for local authorities to participate, the committee recommends the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, along with other interested parties, work with insurers for local government organizations to determine whether the insurers could offer a discount on insurance for local officials who receive certification of training in planning and zoning for animal agriculture.

2. Notice to Minnesota Agriculture and Minnesota Pollution Control Commissioners Regarding Feedlot Ordinance Consideration by Local Government. Second, the committee focused on a concern that has been raised regarding notice by local governmental units when they begin work on a feedlot ordinance. Committee members believe it is desirable for the local unit of government to provide notice to the Commissioners of Agriculture and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency when it is developing or amending a local land use regulation affecting livestock feedlots. This notice provides the opportunity for these two state agencies to provide helpful information and feedback to the local unit of government during its ordinance writing process. Therefore, the committee recommends the Minnesota Legislature amend Minnesota Statutes to provide that local units of government in Minnesota Statutes Chapter 462, as is already required of counties in Minnesota Statutes Section 394.25, must notify the Commissioner of Agriculture and Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency when the local unit of government begins the process of adopting a feedlot ordinance, or amendment to an existing ordinance. This notification should be early in the ordinance adoption process, but in no event any later than the notice of the first hearing to adopt a new feedlot ordinance or to amend an existing feedlot ordinance.

3. Impact on Local Economy Statement. Third, the committee recommends that counties and other local units of government seeking to enact or amend a feedlot ordinance or regulation that would impact animal agriculture, prepare a brief report on the impact the ordinance or regulation will have on the local economy if requested by at least one of the members of the local governing body or upon petition of at least 25 eligible voters within the local governmental jurisdiction. The committee recommends that a local economy analysis include the following:

  • State whether the ordinance or regulation will affect the local economy; and
  • Describe the kinds of businesses, if any, that may be affected by the ordinance or regulation and the projected impact the ordinance or regulation will have on those businesses.

To assist local government in preparing this local economic analysis, the MDA, in cooperation with the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), will develop a template for measuring local economic impacts and make it available to local units of government.

4. Public notification. Fourth, the committee recommends changes to Minnesota Statutes regarding the notice required of local units of government for the initiation of animal agriculture-related ordinances, including interim ordinances, regulations, moratoriums or other types of decision making to ensure timely notice is provided to all potentially interested parties. The purpose of this recommended change is to harmonize the public notice requirements of local units of governments. The committee recognizes that to protect the planning process, the notice requirement must indicate that permit applications are subject to the new ordinance or amendment if the application is made following public notice.

5. Odor Research for Siting Decisions. Fifth, the committee recognizes that researchers have made substantial progress over the years with improvements in odor technology. This research should be provided to local units of government when separation distances and other requirements are being considered to help ensure they reflect the most recent scientific information available.

The committee encourages the University of Minnesota , the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and MDA continue research and support the development of odor technology and methodology so that this information can be used by local government authorities for separation distance decisions

6. Appeal process. Finally, the committee discussed a series of options in attempting to improve the appeal process for local land use decisions. This consideration arose out of concerns that the current appeal process through the Minnesota District Court, Court of Appeals, and then Supreme Court is costly and leads to the substantial risk of an untimely decision for the producer applicant.

The group focused on three primary areas:

  • Who should decide appeals from local land use decisions?
  • Upon what standards should appeals be based?
  • What should be the burden of proof and who bears it?

The committee considered, but did not adopt recommendations on the following appeal options:

(1) Changing Minnesota Statutes to allow an appeal of a livestock siting decision directly to the Minnesota Court of Appeals;

(2) Changing Minnesota Statutes to create a statewide Livestock Siting Commission appointed by the Governor or Commissioner of Agriculture that would include broad representation of counties, townships, producers, environmental representatives, technical experts and public members.

(3) Changing Minnesota Statutes to provide for a change in venue in the appeal of a local unit of government's livestock siting decision.

There was disagreement among committee members over aspects of each of the three listed appeal options. (Footnote 2: In addition, a fourth option was considered during the committee's final meeting on December 13, 2004 . This option would have created a voluntary mediation process between the local unit of government and the producer. Committee members determined there was insufficient time and information to consider this option.) For this reason, committee members determined that improved education and training efforts, timely and effective notice to the state and other interested parties, a renewed focus on relevant scientific information, and cooperation among all interested parties, will lead to improved siting decisions, ease siting conflicts, and reduce the need for a revised appeals process. (Footnote 3: Senator Steve Dille, a committee member, introduced four potential recommendations at the final in-person committee meeting on December 13, 2004 . These recommendations include: (1) recommending the Governor appoint a task force to study urban sprawl issues and make recommendations on controlling urban sprawl, (2) requiring local units of government to base any requirements that are more stringent that the State 7020 Feedlot Rules on sound economics and reasonable scientifically defensible findings of fact, (3) that if a township chooses to plan and zone, its officers should first attend available training sessions, and (4) that any Minnesota statute listing zoning criteria also include economics as a consideration. The committee determined there was insufficient time to review these potential options and noted that some of the proposed options drew both support and opposition from committee members.) Because of this belief, the committee does not recommend revisions to the appeal process at this time.

Given the importance of animal agriculture and the challenges faced by the industry, the Committee encourages the Governor provide for a review of the outcomes of these recommendations in the future.

The committee thanks Governor Tim Pawlenty for the opportunity to provide him with local livestock siting recommendations to enhance the Minnesota livestock industry and its relationship with local units of government.

Footnote 1: Committee members include Bill Oemichen, Minnesota Association of Cooperatives, and Sandy Ludeman, co-chairs, and County Commissioner Harlan Madsen, Minnesota Association of Township's attorney Troy Gilchrist, State Senators Jim Vickerman and Steve Dille, State Representatives Greg Blaine and Paul Marquart, along with original Minnesota Governor's Livestock Task Force members Dana Allen, Lisa Heggedahl, Dave Hoelmer, Joe Swedberg, and Karen Zimmerman.