Rural Minnesota needs more dairy farmers and that’s not the same as more cows. Minnesota Milk, funded by the check-off funds from dairy farmers like myself, doesn’t seem to get that. The overwhelming majority of dairy farms in Minnesota are like mine — moderate-sized operations that are owned and operated by the family farmers who live on them. These farmers love dairying and are good at it — obvious in that they stayed in business during the downturn in prices we’ve had in the past and are currently facing.
But Minnesota Milk and other corporate ag interests are pushing hard to help one of the state’s largest dairies expand despite the concerns of neighbors. Daley Farms in Lewiston wants to expand from 1,728 cows to 4,628 cows, which would make them the 10th-largest dairy in Minnesota and the largest in Southeast Minnesota. For some perspective, 97 percent of dairy farms are under 500 cows, 86 percent are under 200 cows, and only 92 dairy farms are over 500 cows.
This massive operation would use 92-million gallons of groundwater a year and is proposed in a karst area where surface pollution can get into groundwater easily. The area has seen the collapse of municipal waste treatment lagoons. What if one of the manure lagoons, which will collectively hold 46-million gallons of liquid manure, fails? These are real concerns that those that live and farm nearby want more information about. But the mandatory state environmental review was timed so that the public comment period happened during harvest when it would be hard for people to review the hundreds of pages and make comments. Neighbors asked for this comment time to be extended and the MPCA granted a short two-week extension. It was then that Minnesota Milk, along with the Agri-Growth Council (Land O’ Lakes, Cargill, etc.), sued the state saying that this two-week delay would do irreparable harm to the project and the public should not be allowed more time to review the documents. How can Minnesota Milk see a two-week extension of a public comment period as a crisis for dairy farmers big enough to use our check off dollars to hire lawyers, sue the state and issue a press release for one massive dairy?
This isn’t surprising when you remember the Minnesota Milk testimony at the State Legislature in February given by U of M Dairy Economist Dr. Bozic. He said, “We are going to see a number of dairy farmers that are no longer competitive … We would be doing them a disservice by offering some handouts that would prolong their hope when really there is nothing there to hope for.” He then lifted Riverview Dairy, an 8,000-plus cow dairy in Morris, Minn., as the prime example of what type of operation resources should be focused on. That is what Minnesota Milk is doing here. Helping the biggest.
So, Minnesota Milk sues our state to prevent nearby farmers and neighbors from having more time to understand what this massive Daley expansion to 4,628 cows means for their community. It turns out that one of the co-owners of the Daley farms is on Minnesota Milk’s Board of Directors. Time and time again I see Minnesota Milk swinging hard for the big guy while doing little for the 97 percent of dairy farmers under 500 cows that pay the check-off. What have we got to show for the years of check-off dollars we have paid? Low prices, fewer dairy farms and disappearing communities.
Source: Winona Post