Study to look for areas of potential

Jill Schramm/MDN Beth Pietsch, Ward County planning and zoning administrator, marks a map as part of an exercise to gauge public interest in growing the livestock industry in the region during a planning meeting at Minot Public Library Tuesday.

Planners who will be researching the Minot region over the next several months to identify the most suitable sites for large-scale animal agriculture met with local government officials and other interested individuals Tuesday to outline the process and take input.

Souris Basin Planning Council, working with counties in its seven-county region, obtained a Livestock Development and Planning Grant through the state to hire First District Association of Local Governments in Watertown, South Dakota, to conduct the study. The 2023 Legislature authorized the grants across the state to advance studies and encourage animal agriculture.

First District is conducting the study through SBPC for Bottineau, Burke, Mountrail, McHenry, Renville and Ward counties. Pierce County also is in the SBPC region but has not joined the study at this time.

Todd Kays, executive director at First District, said the association, which has conducted similar studies in South Dakota, will look to identify areas that are good, better and best when it comes to animal agriculture. Those determinations will be based on factors such as presence of a floodplain or aquifer, availability of 40 acres, access to power and water supplies, one-mile distance from residences or other human activity, and proximity to a blacktop road.

Within the next week, First District plans to send questionnaires to every township and county to find out how they are handling animal and residential development.

“We are also going to be working with the state Model Ordinance Committee that’s going on right now and providing them some insight as well on how things have worked in South Dakota and how it could be replicated here,” Kays said.

Additionally, First District will meet with rural water districts and electric cooperatives and obtain emergency 911 maps that will be verified with townships to document existing residences.

The intent is to build a database that would be made available on a website.

Local officials discussed problems with livestock operators who have not followed local rules and the influence those experiences can have on a rural community’s acceptance of larger livestock facilities. Participants at one of the two meetings held Tuesday mentioned the lack of butchering facilities and the distance to these facilities or sale barns as additional detriments to livestock growth.

Mark Lyman, economic development director with Minot Area Chamber EDC, cited the availability of land in the agricultural park in east Minot for a livestock processing facility. Having a processing facility could increase local interest in livestock production, he said.

First District presented information on livestock growth in South Dakota, noting the large number of operations in eastern South Dakota and few in the west. Kays said North Dakota could look much the same.

“We’re probably going to find a lot of sites that meet our ‘good’ category in this part of the state, but we might have a hard time finding some ‘best’ sites,” he said.

“Mountrail County is really optimistic about developing this sector,” said Briselda Hernandez, executive director for SBPC. “For us, as a regional council, we want to be able to leverage that energy throughout the seven-county region. We’re in a very unique time with all of the counties, but there’s a lot more collaboration and understanding about taking a regional approach. So, I think overall, the perspective of coming together, even through this project, really illustrates we want to advance. We want to promote economic development, specifically under this sector, for our region.”

The question is what is next and what needs to be in place to enable local ranchers to expand,” she said.

Kays suggested that by using data, local governments can certify properties so zoning applicants wanting to start or expand livestock operations can be on a fast track.

First District plans to begin releasing data one county at a time, beginning in about August. A final report is expected by next February or March.


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