The crowded room erupted with loud applause when Douglas County commissioners denied 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 the City of Osakis, at the intersection of Bird Lake Road NE and County Road 3.

The 5-0 vote took place at the Tuesday, March 3, regular board meeting.

Commissioner Jerry Rapp made the motion to deny the permit, saying it was based on the location not being compatible with the neighborhood. Commissioner Heather Larson seconded the motion.

After the meeting, Dave Rush, the county’s land and resource management director, said he was not surprised by the commissioners’ vote to deny the permit. Their reasoning for the denial was based on one of the seven findings of facts used for consideration of the permit.

At the end of the county board meeting, Rush came back and asked the commissioners for their approval to draw up a document with their findings of fact supporting their reasoning for denying the conditional use permit, in the event the board’s action is appealed. They gave him the green light to draft the document, to be approved at the Tuesday, March 17, board meeting.

Background

At a Feb. 25 meeting, the five-member Douglas County Planning Advisory Commission made a recommendation to approve the permit to the Douglas County Board by a vote of 4-1. Tim Kalina, who is also a Douglas County commissioner, voted against it, with Brian Niehoff, Les Zimmerman, Dan New and Jerry Johnson voting for it.

When the motion was approved by the planning commission, several angry comments were hollered out by those attending the meeting:

“You will ruin our lives.”

“Were you even listening?”

“We are your constituents.”

“What are you thinking?”

More than 40 people were inside the commissioner’s room at that meeting, while many others stood out in the hallway. It was the same at the March 3 meeting, with people packed inside and outside the meeting room.

Concerns

During the public hearing portion of the Feb. 25 planning commission 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, said their dreams of building a home on that land will die if the Trisco’s farm includes that many pigs. She said there are many health concerns, along with odor and traffic concerns, and there were inadequate setbacks.

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

Phil Stowe, who lives on Bird Lake Road, grows eight 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 affected their health.

She said she never thought they would have to think about moving again. Goodwin said it was wrong 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 spot that was being considered wasn’t one of them.