Winter Feed Area was not "Pasture" for Pollution Exemption

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: pasture definition.

In the Matter of Reichmann Land and Cattle, LLP. MN pasture definition

Reichmann Land and Cattle, LLP, operates a family farm in Pope County, Minnesota. It contains 4000 acres of cropland and two registered feedlots. It lies above an aquifer that is especially vulnerable to manure deposits. In November or December until March or April, the owner places about 2000 beef cattle on about 400 acres of the cropland. In addition to the vegetation, the cattle are supplied with feed that supplies about 90% of their needs. One of those fields feeds into a stream that has been designated as having impaired water due to E. coli and dissolved oxygen. That creek feeds into the Sauk River, which ultimately leads to the Mississippi. Reichman has a winter feed permit from Pope County. However, in 2010, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) informed the owner that it needed a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and a State Disposal System (SDS) permit for what the MPCA called an "animal feeding operation." Reichman argued that the permit was not required, since this land fell within the statutory exemption for "pasture." The case ultimately made its way to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals held:

1. When livestock are maintained on crop fields during the winter, the fields are only “pasture” under Minn. Stat. 116.07, if the concentration of livestock is such that the livestock are allowed to forage throughout the winter.

2. If an agricultural lot sustains crops for the duration of the normal growing season, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit is not required to confine livestock on the lot during the winter.

No. A13-1461 (Minn. Ct. App. May 19, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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