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Last reviewed October 2022

Minnesota Issue Guide

This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.

Books and Reports    Articles    Internet Resources    Additional Library Resources

Large livestock feedlots, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO), have been controversial in Minnesota as in other states. Environmental concerns include air pollution, ground water contamination, surface water contamination, and the long-term reliability of waste containment facilities. The social and economic impacts of these large operations on rural communities have been questioned as well.

During the 1998 session of the Minnesota Legislature the feedlot issue sparked heated debate. The House passed a moratorium on new construction or expansion of feedlots at the level of 750 animal units. The Senate and the Governor did not support a moratorium. The final language, passed as part of the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture spending bill did not include a moratorium (Laws of Minnesota 1998, chapter 401). Several provisions of this law affected feedlots. One such change was that counties were allowed to adopt feedlot ordinances calling for standards more stringent than Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rules. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) regulates animal feedlots in Minnesota, according to Minnesota Rules, chapter 7020.

Recognizing the need for further study of animal agriculture, the Legislature appropriated $1.2 million to the Office of Strategic and Long-Range Planning for the first year of a three-year study of the effects of the livestock industry on the state's economy and environment (Laws of Minnesota 1998, chapter 366, section 86). Staff at the Environmental Quality Board produced a Generic Environmental Impact Statement on Animal Agriculture, advised by a citizen committee. Detailed information about Minnesota's 1998 legislation is outlined in a House Research Department Information Brief, 1998 Law Changes Affecting Minnesota Animal Feedlots.

In May 1999, a bill was passed that eased restrictions on feedlot operators (House File 1235/Senate File 692). One provision exempted feedlots from compliance with standards for ambient hydrogen sulfide for the days when manure is being removed from barns or storage facilities and handled for application or disposal. The bill was vetoed by Governor Ventura on May 25, 1999.

A new law in 2000 relaxed feedlot rules (Laws of Minnesota 2000, chapter 435). The law gave legislative direction to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) on how the rules should be amended before final adoption. The MPCA Citizens' Board passed revised rules on August 22, 2000. On October 23, 2000 those feedlot rule changes took effect.

On May 17, 2002, the governor signed the omnibus agriculture policy law which bars the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency or a county board from approving permits for the construction of open-air swine manure basins (Laws of Minnesota 2002, chapter 373). For exceptions to this prohibition, see the House Research Bill Summary for H.F. 3183. The moratorium was originally effective May 18, 2002 through June 30, 2007, but has been extended several times (Minnesota Statutes, section 116.0714).

In 2005, the Minnesota Legislature allocated funds to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to develop a program to assist local units of government with agricultural planning and zoning issues and livestock siting issues. As a result of this legislative action, the Local Land Use and Livestock Siting Program was formed.

In May of 2014, revised rules went into effect regarding three areas: (1) the storage, transportation, disposal and use of animal manure and process wastewaters; (2) the application for and issuance of permits for construction and operation of animal manure management; and (3) disposal or utilization systems for the protection of the environment (Minnesota Rules, chapter 7020, Minnesota Rules, chapter 7002, and Minnesota Rules, chapter 7001).

Although the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit expired on January 31, 2021, the agency allowed permit coverage to continue while the agency completes the online permit application system. The current NPDES general permit is set to expire on January 31, 2026. Minnesota currently issues both the NPDES permit and the State Disposal System (SDS) permit for larger feedlot construction and/or operation. Some local ordinances regarding zoning, setbacks, stormwater, or feedlots may also impact construction and operation of feedlots. More details are available on the MPCA feedlot program permit webpage.

The new NPDES general permit (which expires in 2026) includes changes to the application of manure and sowing of cover crops. Restrictions specific to MPCA permitting of these processes had been under discussion in the 2021 Legislature (SF566 and SF814, sec. 86). Some of the language regarding permitting, manure, and cover crops from these bills were included in Laws of Minnesota 2021, 1st special session, chapter 6. Much of this language significanly changed feedlot permitting at the MPCA. However, the federal Environmental Protection Agency reinstated the original permit stating that this session law conflicts with the federal clean water law.

Significant Books and Reports

(books in reverse chronological order)

Notable Changes to the Feedlot NPDES General Permit. Saint Paul, MN: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2021.

Livestock and the Environment: Feedlot Program Overview. St. Paul: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, January 2021. (TD930.2 .L58 2021)

Zimmerman, Curt. 2015 Livestock Industry Study. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Agriculture, 2016. (HD9417.M53 L58 2016) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 2015 First Special Session, chapter 4, article 2, section 83.)

Sullivan, Colbey. A Minnesota Lawmaker's Guide to the Agri-Environmental Policy Landscape. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, Research Department, 2015. (S589.757.M6 S85)

Oie, Michelle. County Feedlot Program Report. Saint Paul, MN: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2015. (TD930.2 .C68 2015) (Required Laws of Minnesota 2013, chapter 114, article 3, section 3, subdivision 2.)

Industrial Food Animal Production in America: Examining the Impact of the Pew Commission’s Priority Recommendations. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, 2013. (SF140.L58 I53)

Feedlot Financial Needs Assessment Report for Feedlots with Less Than 300 Animal Units to Comply with Applicable State Rules and Statutes by October 1, 2010. Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, January 2008. (TD930.2 .F432 2008) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 2007, chapter 57, article 1, section 2.)

The Minnesota Livestock Producer's Guide to Feedlot Rules: Overview of the Feedlot Rules, Minnesota Rules, Chapter 7020. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Agriculture, March 2008. (KFM5646.A35 M56 2008)

Hendrick, Scott & Farquhar, Doug. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: A Survey of State Policies. Denver, CO: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2008. (KF1730.H46 2008)

Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America. Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, 2008. (SF140.L58 P87 2008)

Feedlot Rules Overview: Minnesota Rules Chapter 7020. St. Paul: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2004.

Livestock, Local Governments, and Land Use: A Guide for Local Officials. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Agriculture, 2006. (HD256 .L58 2006)

Feedlot Program: Report to the Legislature. St. Paul: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2004. (TD930.2 .T86 2004) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 2001 First Special Session, chapter 2, section 2.)

Report to the Legislature: Public Participation in Permitting of Animal Feedlots for Feedlots under 1,000 Animal Units. St. Paul: Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, 2004. (GE185.M6 R47 2004) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 2003, chapter 128, article 3, section 46.)

2002 Feedlot Program: Report to the Legislature. St. Paul: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2002. (TD930.2.T86 2003) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 2001 First Special Session, chapter 2, section 2.)

Generic Environmental Impact Statement on Animal Agriculture. St. Paul: Minnesota Planning Agency, Environmental Quality Board, 2002. (TD428.A37 G50 2002) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 1998, chapter 366, section 86.)

Report to the Legislature on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Ability to Meet 60-day Issuance Deadline for Feedlot Permits. St. Paul: Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, 2000. (TD524.M6 R37 2000) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 2000, chapter 435, section 9.)

Animal Feedlot Regulation. St. Paul: Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor, Program Evaluation Division, 1999. (KFM5646.A65 1999)

Feedlot Issues: Animal Waste Liability Account, Incident Reporting and Contingency Action Plan. St. Paul: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 1999. (TD524.M6 F33 1999) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 1998, chapter 401, section 56.)

Helland, John. 1998 Law Changes Affecting Minnesota Animal Feedlots. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, Research Department, 1998. (KFM5646 .A3 1998)

Legislative Report of the Feedlot Hydrogen Sulfide Program. St. Paul: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, February 1998. (TD885.5.H9 L44 1998) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 1997, chapter 216, section 159.)

Significant Articles

(articles in reverse chronological order)

McVan, Madison. "In Winona County, the Tension Between Agriculture and Water Quality Gets Personal." Minnesota Reformer, April 30, 2024.

Stevens, Margaret. "Large Dairy Farms Would Face Additional Environmental Scrutiny Under Proposed Bill." Session Daily, March 20, 2024.

Vondracek, Christopher and Brooks Johnson. "Minnesota Hog Farmers Shoulder Weight of Adapting to California's Law." Star Tribune, January 9, 2024.

Bjorhus, Jennifer and Christopher Vondracek. "State Groups Sue to Pressure EPA to Regulate Feedlots." Star Tribune, September 18, 2023.

Marohn, Kirsti. "Digesters Make Renewable Energy from Manure, but Face Hurdles." MPR News, September 12, 2023.

Radelat, Ana. "Minnesota Farmers Press Congress to Block California Ban on Pork Produced Through 'Inhumane' Gestation Pens." MinnPost, August 31, 2023.

Fish, Noah. "The Changing World of Raising Livestock." AgWeek, March 14, 2022.

Bjorhus, Jennifer. "Dairy Farm Expansion Rejected." Star Tribune, December 3, 2021.

Orenstein, Walker. "EPA nixes Minnesota Legislature’s bid to relax feedlot regulations." MinnPost, September 2, 2021.

Orenstein, Walker. "New Rules for Minnesota's Large Animal Feedlots to be Relaxed Under Compromise Legislation." MinnPost, June 24, 2021.

Orenstein, Walker. "Why Republicans at the Minnesota Legislature are Determined to Kill the State's Latest Feedlot Regulations." MinnPost, May 11, 2021.

Ramstad, Evan. "Judge Finds Winona County Board of Adjustment was Biased in Denial of Dairy Farm Expansion." Star Tribune, December 22, 2020.

Belz, Adam. "Battle Over Southeast Minnesota Dairy Expansion Drags On: The Land Stewardship Project Must Hand Internal Documents to a Judge in the Lewiston Case." Star Tribune, October 6, 2020.

Mohr, Paula. "MPCA Proposes New Manure Application Rules." The Farmer, June 2020, p. 1.

Bjorhus, Jennifer. "State Rejects In-Depth Study on Greenhouse Gases at Winona County Dairy: State Says Deeper Look at 3,000-Cow Expansion Plan at Dairy Unnecessary." Star Tribune, April 29, 2020.

Belz, Adam. "Moratorium on Large Dairies Proposed at Minnesota Legislature." Star Tribune, March 12, 2020.

Belz, Adam. "Greenhouse gas readout for dairy expansion near Winona Heightens Scrutiny of Methane." Star Tribune, January 23, 2020.

Associated Press. "Court of Appeals Orders State to Reconsider Dairy Expansion." Minnesota Lawyer, October 16, 2019.

Bjorhus, Jennifer. "Farmer Drops 'Karst Country' Swine Feedlot Plan: Proposal Drew Opposition in Southeastern Minnesota, Where Many Wells are Contaminated." Star Tribune, Februrary 12, 2019.

Phaneuf, Taryn. "Feedlot Dilemma: Local Entities Consider Whether to Set Caps on Size." MinnPost, February 6, 2019.

Todd, Brian. "Daley Farm Gets Approval from MPCA for Expansion." Rochester Post Bulletin, January 9, 2019.

Dunbar, Elizabeth. "Pollution Agency Denies Permit for Huge Hog Feedlot in SE Minnesota." MPR News, December 18, 2018.

Bjorhus, Jennifer. "In Southeastern Minnesota's Karst Country, Feedlot Proposal has Neighbors Riled: Water Worries Prompt Rare Second Hearing for SE. Minn. Hog Farm." Star Tribune, November 26, 2018.

Marcotty, Josephine. "Ag Industry Sues State over Public Review of Winona County Megafarm." Star Tribune, October 31, 2018.

Marcotty, Josephine. "As Hog Feedlots Grow, Neighbors Ask: What About Our Rights? In Todd County and at Legislature, a Showdown Looms Over Rural Quality of Life." Star Tribune, April 17, 2017.

Mohr, Jonathan. "From Home Cooks to Fences and Feedlots, Omnibus Ag Policy Bill Passes House." Session Daily, April 5, 2017.

Mohr, Jonathan. "Stink Over Farm Odors Has Some Doing More than Plugging Their Nose." Session Daily, February 21, 2017.

Mosedale, Mike. "Raising a Stink: Return of the Feedlot Wars." Minnesota Lawyer, August 6, 2015.

Clement, Douglas. "Knee Deep in Feedlot Feuds." FedGazette, July 1, 2001.

deFiebre, Conrad. "Audit: MPCA Lags Badly on Feedlots." Star Tribune, January 29, 1999.

Lien, Dennis & Egerstrom, Lee. "Feedlot Debate Muddies Future of Proposed Farm/State and Federal Scrutiny Increases with Farms' Scale of Operations" St. Paul Pioneer Press, March 8, 1998.

Rigert, Joe & Ison, Chris. "Diluted Enforcement: State Watchdog Lags in Policing Water Polluters." Star Tribune, December 13, 1998.

Significant Internet Resources

Animal Feeding Operations Overview – Learn about U.S. Federal Rules and Regulations relating to feedlots from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), a division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Manure Management - The University of Minnesota Extension Service provides information about storage, air quality, pathogens, treatment, wastewater, and application of manure.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture – Feedlot Information including Feedlot Permitting in Minnesota: A Checklist for Producers, and the Local Ordinances Regulating Livestock in Minnesota.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – Feedlots, which includes the option to subscribe to the Agriculture Stewardship newsletter.

Additional Library Resources

For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
A12.22 (Agriculture - Livestock), A12.45 (Agriculture - Pollution), A12.6 (Agriculture - Corporate Farms)

For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these Library catalog searches:
Feedlots; Animal Industry; Farm Manure.

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