Try 1 month for 99¢

Things aren’t looking good for the Daley Farm’s proposed feedlot expansion.

The Lewiston-based dairy plans to increase its herd from 1,728 cows and calves to 4,628, but before it can break ground, the farm needs to obtain a variance and conditional-use permit to exceed Winona County’s animal unit cap.

However, according to county staff in a report published Wednesday, Daley Farms may not be eligible for a variance. While the county staff’s report certainly doesn’t bode well for the Daley Farms’ planned expansion, the final decision falls to the Winona County Board of Adjustment, which is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at the Tau Center on Winona State University’s west campus. The Tau Center is located on the corner of Hilbert and Howard streets.

“The petitioner has not demonstrated the variance request satisfies all of the approval criteria,” county staff concluded, adding that the farm’s petition failures to meet four of the eight criteria listed in the finds of fact.

In his application, Ben Daley, a fifth-generation farmer whose family has run the Lewiston dairy for more than 100 years, made the case that a variance was in fact in harmony with the intent of the ordinance and the county’s 2014 comprehensive plan.

“An expansion of the farm is necessary in order to support the additional people who will be making their living farming in Winona County,” Daley wrote in his application. “At the same time, the project has been carefully engineered — and reviewed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency — to ensure that the manure generated from the facilities can be properly managed to protect the health of the public and natural resources.”

Daley Farms owns and operates three sites in Winona County. In addition to the expansion planned for one site, it will close a second site and install open-lot runoff controls at the third site. The expansion at the main site would include a total confinement barn with 3,000 dairy cows, a rotary milking parlor, a manure storage basin, a feed storage pad and stormwater runoff controls.

While county staff did find merit in some of the arguments made in Daley’s application, it determined that granting a variance would only serve to enlarge — not reduce — the existing nonconformity and thus was not in harmony with the county zoning ordinance governing the size of feedlots in Winona County.

Staff also made the case that the variance request was economically motivated, hadn’t established a practical difficulty complying with the ordinance, nor was the request due to special conditions or circumstances that were unique to the property or out of the property owner’s control.

The public can submit written comments to Winona County Planning & Environment Services, 177 Main St., Winona, MN 55987, until noon Tuesday, Feb. 19. Any written public comments received after the deadline will not be distributed to board members.

So far the county has received nearly 100 comments, the majority of which support the Daley’s plans to expand.

A Winona Daily News review of the comments revealed that more than three-quarters of the comments made were in support of the expansion. This included comments of support from city councils in Stockton, Rollingstone, Elba, Lewiston, Utica and Altura.

“The city of Lewiston welcomes the potential of greater economic benefits to the various agriculture related businesses as well as those residents who are or may become employees of Daley Farms LLP,” a letter from the city of Lewiston reads.

According to Winona County planning director Kay Qualey in an interview last week, the board of adjustment must find that the petitioner — Daley Farms — has met all eight of the criteria listed in the finds of fact in order to grant a variance.

If the board of adjustment disagrees with county staff’s findings and grants the variance, the Daleys would still need to obtain a conditional use permit from the planning commission before it could begin work on the expansion.

However, if the board of adjustment agrees with county staff’s findings on any one of the eight criteria, the Daley’s request for a variance would be denied, leaving the family with limited options for recourse.

Daley Farms has the option to appeal the board of adjustment’s decision in district court, or the family could petition the planning commission to change the county’s zoning ordinances.

The Daley’s feedlot expansion has faced intense scrutiny among many in the community who feel the dairy’s expansion would pose a significant environmental risk to the region’s water supply.

The MPCA received more than 600 comments during a public comment period last fall.

And while MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine determined that the farm did not require an environmental impact statement in early January, that decision is already facing legal challenges from the Land Stewardship Project and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

“The Land Stewardship Project feels strongly that in making this decision to not do an EIS, the MPCA failed in its obligation to protect the natural resources of rural communities especially groundwater,” said LSP organizer Barb Sogn-Frank in a statement.

The appellate court has not ruled on whether it will hear the case.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Tobias Mann covers crime and government in Winona County. He can be reached at 507-453-3522 or at



(15) comments


Apart from the usual politics, I would like to comment on the fact that this would be a "total confinement barn" presumably this means that the rest of these animals lives will be spent in standing or lying in one place . I think this is a cruel sentence given to these animals. I hardly think that Daley Farm did this 100 years ago looking out for the benefit of employees. Just Saying-----------


The Daley family would be putting in a free stall barn where cows have the freedom to lay down walk about their pens and eat and drink as they please. They would then have to walk to a parlor to be milked before returning to their pen. The term total confinement is just saying any waste generated inside of a building is collected, stored, and later spread in the fields. This is a way to keep cattle indoors where they have shade, fans, and sprinklers to keep them cool and where doors and curtains can get closed to keep them warm indoors. This being Minnesota these buildings are designed to contain waste and keep cattle comfortable when the extreme temperatures can swing from -60 to 110. I also would think you would be hard pressed to find any farm doing things the way they did 100 years ago.

Edward Teach


Paul Harvey

ED. Seems Hales is concerned about groundwater. Jacob is concerned about nothing. You sided with Jacob. BTW. Jacob didnt recuse himself and has clearly advocated for factory farms along with Lemon Drop. So, the judges have decided before the case has been heard. Now.....An EIS would answer many questions dont you agree?

lemon drop

I've advocated for this family farm. I'm not in position of power here Paul, not in politics. Maybe you should ask your wife? I don't think the judges have heard this type of screwed up proceedings before?

Paul Harvey

Sure ok then. You agree an EIS would convince Hales and/or confirm her concern? It would also confirm and/or counter your made up mind. When you have more employees than family it isnt a family farm by the given definition. Look it up.

Edward Teach

Another non-sequitur and misdirection. The issue is not an unnecessary EIS but that Hales doesn't seem to take her own advice. Nice try but you need to stick to the topic.

lemon drop

As per the LSP handbook? EIS is only a means to stop a project not to find answers, everyone knows that

Paul Harvey

ED you indicate an EIS is unnecessary. Maybe the petitioner can offer up a bond to cover any "potential" or unforeseen issues. You know, the stuff an EIS would study. Maybe Ms. Hales comments to the MPCA (If read as submitted) were only advocating for a study. But you can run with the story. As far as off topic? Who put you in charge? Learn to chew bubble gum and dribble or get a bib.


So by your definition the only time family can be used in front of a farm or any business for that matter is when their is more family working than employees. With that thinking for example what if a man and his son where milking 100-200. While doing a lot of the work they also employed a person to milk the night shift another person to help with field work cattle work and other day to day chores, and then also a weekend milker. By your definition this example would also not a be family farm. Your definition doesn't take into account the agricultural practices and a love for cattle and the land that has been passed down from generations.

Edward Teach

Not at all. This issue isn't what Jacob did or didn't do in the past. The issue is the rank hypocrisy of Cherie Hales who who in the here and now is in the same position. Perhaps she should take her own advice and recuse herself due to her public comments opposing this specific project.




I see the usual local liberals and self proclaimed keepers of the faith are again demonstrating their expertise in everything. Geez! Build the farm.

Edward Teach

Blast from the Past: Cherie Hales Greatest Hits

"If Commissioner Jacob does not recuse himself from voting on the proposed amendments, it damages the integrity of the process and reflects on the entire board. It undermines peoples faith in the democratic process.

If Commissioner Jacob does not offer to abstain from this vote, his fellow commissioners need to ask him to do so."

Due to her public comments in opposition to the Daley Family's project It appears as though Cherie Hales would agree with herself and abstain from voting. If she doesn't do so voluntarily her colleagues should require her to do so.


Edward Teach

A Blast from the Past:

"One would like to think that the responsibility of a member of the Winona County planning commission is to come with an open mind, listen to varying points of view, hear people's concerns and formulate a decision. Not publicly rally people to his own preconceived point of view."

"Having read Mr. Evanson's pieces in the paper over the years, and attended meetings with him, I know that he has a strong personal agenda. He is not someone I feel is open to considering other points of view or working out compromises in the best interests of all county residents. That, coupled with his egregious piece in the paper, warrants his being immediately dismissed from the planning commission and being replaced by someone better able to fulfill the required duties in a more open-minded manner."

Who is this you might ask. It is an excerpt from a Letter-to-the-Editor penned by current Winona County Board of Adjustment member Cherie Hales. The same Cherie Hales who has expressed opposition to the Daley Family's project in public comments.

Will she take her own advice and accept dismissal from the BOA so she can be replaced by someone better able to fulfill the required duties in a more open-minded manner?


Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.