The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners is weighing whether to allow a turkey producer to raise thousands of more birds in barns at five of its existing sites.
The board plans is expected to decide Thursday on the request by the Jennie-O Turkey Store for conditional use permits that would allow it to raise more, but smaller, turkeys at the sites, which are in four townships. The Planning Commission approved the permits Monday.
The company is seeking the permits because it says they will allow it to keep up with new market demands for smaller birds, the West Central Tribune reported.
The final market weight would be a couple pounds less so the total pounds of turkeys produced in each barn would be about the same as it is now, company spokesman Steve Onnen said.
Onnen told the Kandiyohi County Planning Commission on Monday that the company is not expanding its barns but increasing the number of smaller birds in the barns. Because the number of animal units is increasing, the company needs conditional use permits.
Cathy Miller, a resident from Willmar, was at the meeting and objected to the plan.
"My conscience called me here tonight," said Miller, who questioned "crowding" more turkeys into a barn.
"I feel badly about what's happening inside those barns," she said.
Miller encouraged the board to go to the turkey barns and "see what it's like."
Planning Commission Chairman John Dean said three members of the board do visit each site that's requesting a conditional use permit prior to making a decision.
Zoning Administrator Gary Geer said the county is working with Jennie-O on the permits and said the company has changed ventilation systems, which has improved air quality in the barns.
The number of turkeys in three barns at one site in Roseville Township would increase from the 100,000 to 120,000 and five barns at another Roseville Township site would go from 90,000 birds to 114,000.
A permit in Arctander Township would increase the total birds from 17,300 to 27,500 in two barns.
In St. Johns Township, three existing barns would house 90,000 birds, up from the current permitted number of 76,000.
Three barns in Kandiyohi Township would go from 41,700 birds to 54,000 birds.
Information from: West Central Tribune