The Isanti County board of commissioners has opted to kick back a proposed feedlot amendment, hoping that debate on the subject won’t continue until the cows come home.

After conducting a public hearing regarding the proposed amendment, the board decided it would not take action regarding the amendment until some of the issues raised at the public hearing are addressed.

Isanti County resident Bob Olson explained that he is a farmer from southwest Isanti County. He has been farming for 55 years on a 153-year family farm. He explained he has invested in his buildings and properties, as well as the time and costs associated with being a permitted feedlot through the State of Minnesota. 

However, he does more crop farming at this time and only has enough animals on his feedlot to qualify as a feedlot if there is a bad crop year.

He proposed an additional paragraph in the permitted uses portion of the ordinance in order to protect his farm and investments. He would like the board to add, “A minimum of 1,000 feet setback for additional non-farm dwellings if an inactive feedlot is currently certified, registered or licensed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).” 

His justifications for the amendment are that the MPCA requires a fee to complete the application, which establishes guidelines for maintaining and operating facilities it has approved and licensed after review. The review includes a site inspection, and clients have MPCA reporting requirements to remain actively permitted.

Olson noted there are a small number of inactive operations in Isanti County that have taken the initiative to remain usable and protect sizable investments made to their facilities, on which they also pay taxes.

Commissioner Susan Morris said that adding this paragraph places the county in the same position it is trying to prevent. 

“The problem that we had is there are people who have inactive feedlots and have used that to prevent people from moving in,” she said.

“That’s the idea,” Olson responded, “so you don’t have an adversarial situation between a new resident that builds and somebody that has made an earlier investment. If they came back with livestock, they’d be the bad person and they made the investment first. So I’ve got a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of buildings, and somebody moves too close to me, and I put livestock in and they complain – I’m the bad guy. I’ve been there a long time. I’ve made the investment; I pay taxes on my buildings, and I don’t think somebody should drop in at the last minute and all of a sudden we have an adversarial situation.”

Commissioner Greg Anderson explained this discussion took place at length when the planning commission was amending the ordinance. 

Resident David Moritz explained to the board his two concerns. He’s invested well over $100,000 into his feedlot, he said. His farm started with two steers his son got for a project. Currently, he is at 30 animal units, not meeting the 50 animal unit requirement by the county in the amended ordinance. If he were to have to meet that requirement, he would have to increase his farm operation much more quickly than he is prepared to do.

Another concern for Moritz is the window of time that animals have to be on the feedlot in order to remain active. He explained that a medical issue or other emergency could cause a farmer to go longer than one year without the required animal units on the feedlot, thereby losing the status.

After extensive discussion regarding the concerns brought forth, the board tabled a decision on the ordinance amendment, sending it back to the planning commission with the following instructions:

• create a plan for facilities that are not currently in use, but could be put into use in the future

• look at extending the need for animals to be present for at least 45 days over 12 months, either by creating a longer time period or allowing an appeal process for an extension

• consider decreasing the number of animal units required

• create an administrative process for unforeseen circumstances.

Engineering study approved for high traffic intersection

The board approved a traffic study for County State Aid Highway 5 and Dual Boulevard in the city of Isanti at a cost of $27,148. The county will be responsible for two-thirds of the cost of the study ($18,819), and the city for one-third of the cost ($8,329).

When asked how it was decided that the county will pay for two-thirds of the cost, County engineer Richard Heilman explained that it is a three-leg intersection, and the CSAH 5, which is the county’s responsibility, is two of the three legs.

The study is needed due to the increased traffic created when Kwik Trip opened at that intersection.

County Administrator to retire

Board member Greg Anderson thanked county administrator Kevin VanHooser, who is retiring, for his 36 years of dedicated service to Isanti County. 

“All of your hard work and efforts are very much appreciated,” Anderson said. “We all have enjoyed working with you for the last several years as commissioners, and we wish you nothing but the best in your next life’s journey.”

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