Former MPCA commissioner fails to deny general Catalpa Ag permit, Catalpa Ag has reapplied

Former Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner John Linc Stine misled the public in December when he announced he was denying the general permit for the proposed Catalpa Ag 4,890-head swine farrowing facility in Newburg Township near Mabel.

When asked for official denial documents, including findings of fact, MPCA staff informed RAKC (Responsible Agriculture in Karst Country) members that Stine merely announced his "intention to deny" the permit even though those were not his words at the press conference.

Stine's press conference noted that Catalpa Ag would be allowed to "request coverage" under an individual permit but did not state they could withdraw their general permit before the MPCA formally denied the general permit by producing a written record. Thus, there is not a single public document laying out reasons for the permit denial. Stine has now left office.

Since then, Catalpa Ag has reapplied under an individual permit, disregarding the concerns of hundreds of local farmers, families, elected officials and small business owners. An individual permit is rarely used, and theoretically gives MPCA more discretion in requiring additional studies and additional requirements.

The new MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop and staff will now be in charge of making decisions regarding the new permit.

Until then, township-level local control measures can limit the size of industrial feedlots, protecting public health and responsible farming, no matter what the county and state allow.

Newburg Township’s moratorium on large feedlots over 500 animal units continues, and the local committee is studying permanent zoning options.

Preble Township recently passed a moratorium on feedlots over 750 animal units, and is in the process of forming a zoning study committee.

Canton Township will skip the moratorium and is setting up its zoning study committee now.

The MPCA will release a draft of the Catalpa individual permit and announce a new comment period in the coming months.