Permit for Baarsch Farms moves forward

Published 10:34 am Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Mower County Planning and Zoning Commission has agreed to recommend granting a conditional use permit to Baarsch Farms, LLC.

Robert Baarsch sought the commission’s endorsement for a CUP that will allow him to remodel the interior of existing buildings and expand his swine operation of 1,920 animal units to 2,100.

The site is located in Section 25, Lodi Township.

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The commission’s recommendation of approval will be considered by the Mower County Board of Commissioners at a public hearing 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 7.

The Baarsch CUP petition was heard at Tuesday night’s meeting of the county planning commission.

It was the first meeting for the commissioners since November 2008, when Richard P. Cummings, then-First District county commissioner, chaired the meeting.

At Tuesday night’s session Tim Gabrielson, who succeeded Cummings as the First District representative when the incumbent decided not to run for re-election, chaired the meeting. Angie Knish, county environmental services director, described the Baarsch request for the planning commission members.

According to Knish, the Baarsch request did not exceed the county’s cap of 3,000 AUs before which the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency must act.

Frank Moore, an environmental services specialist employed by Baarsch Farms, LLC, described the proposal’s remodeling of three existing buildings as a “better utilization of interior space more effectively.”

The county planning commission’s investigating committee visited the Lodi Township site last Wednesday (March 25). Commission member Margaret Kirchner, rural Dexter, described the visit as a “very informative session” with the petitioner.

Commission member Barb Hovde, rural LeRoy, asked Knish if Mower County had a policy on odor control at livestock confinement operations.

Knish responded, “Some counties do and some counties don’t.” She added, Mower County did not have an odor control policy.

Hovde also inquired about the effectiveness of bio-filter systems in controlling livestock odor.

At a recent Mower County Township Association meeting, Lodi Township supervisor Rick Winfield proposed the association’s members seek a revision to Mower County zoning regulations for feedlots that would require bio-filter systems on livestock confinement operations of 500 AUs or more.

Kirchner said the Baarsch Farms, LLC operation’s owners said they are attempting to control odor with feed rations and other measures.

Knish said the county’s Good Neighbor Plan, which is included in the CUP petition, also addresses odor issues.

Kirchner said when she visited as a member of the investigating committee, “It looked like a good operation to me, and the people were very cooperative in answering our questions about everything.”

Commission member Harlan Peck, rural Austin, inquired about the site’s manure management plans.

Moore told Peck and the other commission members, “The manure is injected once a year in the Fall after harvest.”

According to Moore, neighbors of the hog confinement operation have routinely requested manure applications to fertilize their fields.

Moore also said only certified applicators are hired to apply by injection the manure into the fields.

After 40-minutes of discussion, the commission members reviewed and accepted the findings of fact, regarding the CUP petition.

Kirchner made the motion to adopt the findings of fact and recommend approval of the petition with four conditions, including the county’s Good Neighbor Plan.

Peck seconded the motion, and all five commissioners voted “aye.”

The petitioner, Robert Baarsch, helped Mower County write its own feedlot regulations several years ago.

The site in question has been used as a feedlot for the last 10-plus years and is surrounded by agriculture land.