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Township farmers, residents oppose possible factory farm

Claremont, Minn- Residents of Ripley Township and their neighbors voiced concern and opposition to corporate interests that made a visit to the township today as part of a tour of southeast Minnesota. The stop in Ripley Township was focused on an unbuilt, unpermitted and unwanted mega-dairy proposed by a New Jersey investor. The operation has been strongly opposed by a majority of township residents but aggressively pushed by agri-business interests from outside the area.

The Minnesota Agri Growth Council, a lobby group for some of the largest corporate ag interests in the state, is coordinating the tour. Residents gathered at the boundary of the township with trucks and tractors and carrying signs that read "MN Agri-Growth Get Out Of Dodge," "Citizens for a Healthy Dodge County," and "No Factory Farms."

"I came out because I am opposed to this outside investor building his factory farm in Ripley Township and I do not appreciate the corporate interests that are trying to force it on us," said Dave Brown, a local farmer. "The Agri-Growth Council does not believe in local democracy or family farmers, but I do."

The Agri-Growth Council last November released a report that suggested township zoning powers should be weakened to allow for the growth of large livestock facilities in Minnesota. A representative from the Agri-Growth Council served on Governor Pawlenty's Livestock Task Force. Governor Pawlenty recently endorsed the recommendations of the task force, which included weakening the right of townships to have decision-making power in the siting of large feedlots.

Ripley Township residents are familiar with the high-pressure tactics used by boosters of the 3,000 animal unit dairy. Last October, over 200 proponents of the proposed operation, including representatives from Monsanto, Cargill, AgStar Financial Services, and Land O Lakes - all members of MN Agri Growth Council - took over a monthly township meeting. Residents who attended were forced to stand and subjected to a lecture on how the proposed mega-dairy would benefit the community.

"This is just more of the same," said Janet Hallaway, a farmer from the township. "They want to flood our township with outside lobbyists to try to intimidate us into keeping quiet. Well, these lobbyists don't live here and won't have to drink the polluted water or be unable to sell their house because nobody wants to live by a factory farm. Governor Pawlenty shouldn't be listening to them."

Ripley Township residents have attended dozens of educational meetings and toured large-scale dairies in the Midwest to learn first hand their impact on local communities. Residents continue to oppose the building of the proposed investor-owned mega-dairy. Over 75% of township residents have signed a petition calling for Ripley Township to implement planning and zoning guidelines to address development like large-scale livestock operations.


  • Janet Hallaway, Ripley Township resident, 507-374-2280
  • Mary Norstad, Ripley Township resident, 507-374-2642
  • Adam Warthesen, Land Stewardship Project staff, 612-722-6377