Large dairy farm approved for west of Willmar, Minn.

Farm Forum

PENNOCK, Minn. (AP) — Officials have given the go-ahead for a roughly 8,800-head dairy operation west of Willmar in west-central Minnesota, and construction is expected to begin next spring.

The St. Johns Township Board unanimously approved a permit Nov. 7 for the Meadow Star Dairy, owned by Riverview LLP, Township Board Chairman Duane Hultgren said Wednesday. Morris-based Riverview owns and operates eight large dairy operations in western Minnesota and South Dakota.

Hultgren said the project has been in the works since 2008. He said the permitting process took longer than expected, then the dairy market went sour. The return to profitability for the dairy industry revived the project, he said.

Meadow Star Dairy is expected to employ about 55 people from the Willmar and Pennock area, and provide other local farmers with a market for feed and a supply of manure fertilizer, Hultgren said. He said it should “positively affect every segment of our local economy.”

Riverview owners Brad and Gary Fehr did not immediately return calls seeking details Wednesday. An article in Beef magazine last year said Riverview is one of the largest dairy operations in Minnesota and South Dakota, milking over 45,000 cows.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens Board voted in August to require an in-depth environmental impact statement for a proposed Riverview farm near Chokio in Stevens County called Baker Dairy, which would have a capacity of over 9,300 head, after area residents raised concerns about water use, dust, odor, manure management and other issues.

Hultgren, who said he started the Meadow Star Dairy project in 2008 but later sold the land to Riverview, said the MPCA issued a permit for it in 2009 that remains valid.