Permit request for farm expansion will wait for EAW

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 12/22/99.

Following a public hearing on Thursday night, the Stearns County Planning Commission tabled a conditional use permit request by Earl B. Olson Farms, a division of Jennie-O Foods, Inc., pending the completion of an Environmental Assessment Worksheet.

The EAW is required by the Environmental Quality Board because the proposed expansion would involve more than 1,000 animal units. The farm is located 3,184 feet west of the city of Paynesville, and borders on Highway 23.

Presently, 26,000 turkeys are grown to market size on the farm. The proposed expansion would involve the renovation of the existing barns and the addition of a 72' by 400' barn to hold brooder turkeys, which would arrive at the farm when a day old and would stay on the farm about six weeks. The proposed facility would hold 88,000 brooder birds.

John Kolstad, who works in the feedlot unit at Stearns County Environmental Services, expected the EAW to be submitted by the first of the year. After that, there will be a public comment and review period. Based on the EAW, the EQB will make a determination as to whether an entire Environmental Impact Statement will be needed.

Kolstad said the county believes the proposed facility would be an improvement over the present situation. The county will want to see if Paynesville Township grants a permit first, according to Kolstad.

The public hearing lasted about 90 minutes, according to Kolstad, and had about a dozen people in attendance. Objections to the expansion project included having more birds, more smell, and more noise, which the county and Jennie-O Foods deny.

Another protest was the further encroachment to developed land, or land that potentially could be developed, including the possible annexation of land by the city of Paynesville near the farm.

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