Board OKs Grant County dairy plan

Farm Forum

MILBANK – A 5,500-head dairy farm proposed by Nelson Dairy in Grant County was approved on May 11 in front of a full courtroom at the Grant County Courthouse by the Grant County Planning and Zoning board.

The proposal passed by a 5-2 vote. Board members Tom Adler, Gary Lindeman, Lori Brandt, Mike Mach, and Nancy Johnson voted yes. Tom Pillatzki and Richard Hansen voted no.

The motion passed after an amendment was added, saying that a synthetic liner must be placed between the liquid and the ground in storage ponds on the farm to prevent contamination.

The operation was approved after three hours of testimonials from opponents and proponents of the operation.

“A dairy farm of this size poses a great environmental risk to the area, due to the land use changes a project of this size tends to create,” Upper Big Sioux Watershed Project Manager Roger Foote said.

A project like this tends to increase soil erosion, which is detrimental to the Big Sioux River, Foote said.

“With 5,500 animals, you are going to need 7,000 to 8,000 acres of silage,” Foote said.

“When you combine that with the dairy that is already up there, highly erodible soils are going to be in trouble with silage upon silage.”

“The river is already impaired with e-coli and sediment,” Foote said.

“This will just increase the sediment load in the Big Sioux River, which will eventually affect Lake Kampeska and Lake Pelican, and areas farther south,” Foote said.

Foote wasn’t alone in his opposition to the project.

“This is a bad location for the operation, because it’s at the top of the Big Sioux Watershed and it’s surrounded by streams, so when you add more manure, you risk contaminating an already impaired watershed,” Gerry Adolph, a Summit resident, said.

Brian Donahoe, attorney for Nelson Dairy, was pleased with the board’s approval of the CAFO.

“We’re pleased the board was able to address the issue and approve the permit,” Donahoe said.

“There’s a huge economic benefit with these kinds of operations,” Ortley resident Kris Bronson said. “That money goes back into the community. This is a good location.”

Jason Mischel of Valley Queen in Milbank was also in support of the operation.

“We’ve heard a lot of things that may go wrong with this,” Michel said.

“The idea that there are too many cows within one location is faulty. There are examples where we put a lot of cattle together in tight spaces, and it worked.”

Opponents of the measure said the density of farms in the area would lead to pollution.

Dustin Nelson, the applicant, declined to comment after the meeting.

The operation will be located on 455th Avenue and in Grant County.

Nelson still has to construct the operation and the land is currently used as farmland, Engineer Brian Friedrichsen said after the meeting.

Friedrichsen wasn’t sure when the operation will be completed.

The concentrated animal feeding operation is classified as a Class A CAFO.