The crowded room erupted when the Douglas County Planning Advisory Commission recommended the approval of a conditional use permit for the expansion of a dairy and beef farm to include swine – 2,400 pigs ranging in size from 55 to 300 pounds.

The farm, owned by Steven Trisco and his son, Orry Trisco, is in Osakis Township north of Osakis at the intersection of Bird Lake Road NE and County Road 3.

The five-member board recommended the approval of the permit to the Douglas County Board by a vote of 4-1 with Tim Kalina, a Douglas County commissioner, voting against it and Brian Niehoff, Les Zimmerman, Dan New and Jerry Johnson for it.

“You will ruin our lives.”

“Were you even listening?”

“We are your constituents.”

“What are you thinking?”

When the motion was approved, these were just a few of the angry comments from those attending the planning and zoning meeting Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Douglas County Courthouse. More than 40 people were inside the commissioner’s room, while numerous others were standing out in the hallway.

Also in attendance was Dave Rush, the county’s land and resource management director, and Mark Koep, feedlot coordinator.

The conditional use permit is not a done deal, however, as it still needs to be approved by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. They were expected to vote on the issue at the Tuesday, March 3, board meeting.

The Trisco’s application is to allow the expansion of the existing farm feedlot, which consists of 55 dairy heifers and 26 beef cows, totaling 64.5 animal units. The additional animal units would bring the facility to a total of 784.5 animal units. The additional 2,400 swine would be housed in a new total confinement barn that is 102-feet by 200-feet with two slatted floor liquid manure storage areas.

The proposed conditional use permit includes 15 different conditions the farm owners would have to abide by if the permit is granted. Here’s just a few of them:

  • Biofilters would have to be installed and be fully operational prior to the stocking of the facility.

  • All swine manure must be applied by individuals who have successfully completed the Minnesota Department of Agriculture training and test for Commercial Animal Waste Technicians.

  • The county feedlot coordinator must be notified 24 hours prior to the agitation, pumping and/or application of swine manure from the facility.

  • Clean roof runoff from the proposed barn shall be collected by an engineered tile system around the entire building and evenly discharged into a 50-foot buffer of native perennial vegetation to be maintained between the north side of the barn and the intermittent stream to the north.

  • The barn must be setback at least 200 feet from any public road right-of-way and any open ditch or intermittent stream.

Concerns

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, numerous people spoke out against the addition of pigs to the Trisco farm.

Water quality, manure spreading, disease, health issues and air quality were some of the main concerns.

Several talked about MRSA, which is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or what is known as a “superbug” that causes infections in different parts of the body.

Nancy Bengtson, who said her husband died from MRSA, said manure is loaded with parasites and could be a carrier for the disease. She said 90,000 people suffer from MRSA, and 20,000 people die each year, many of them children.

“Air quality is a huge concern,” she said. “I don’t want it (the expansion).”

Bengtson also talked about the coronavirus and how it’s been discovered in pigs, along with Hepatitis E. She also talked about property values going down.

Kim Sjostrand from Alexandria who, with her husband, Jeff, owns land near the Trisco farm.

She said their dreams of building a home on that land will die if the Trisco’s farm includes the addition of that many pigs. She said there are many health concerns, along with odor and traffic concerns.

Sjostrand also said there were inadequate setbacks.

Her husband said it is a good project, but just in the wrong place. He had concerns about contamination of the stream.

Phil Stowe, who lives on Bird Lake Road, grows eight different varieties of haskap plants. The fruit is harvested from the orchard and goes to area wineries to make wine.

Stowe is worried about the smell from the farm penetrating the fruit, making it useless. He provided a slideshow of information from the University of Minnesota in regard to odor levels from different types of animals.

“It would be devastating if the odor reaches our orchard,” he said.

Amy Goodwin of Osakis said her family had to move when a pig farm opened nearby. Her children have asthma and the air/smell coming from the farm was too much for them and their health was affected.

She never thought they would have to think about moving again. Goodwin said it was a bold and wrong spot to think about putting the additional animal units so close to the lake and to the town of Osakis.

Many other people loudly voiced their concerns. Township representatives said they had mixed feelings about it and that there is a good place for a farm like this, but the one being considered wasn’t one of them.