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Clarissa farmer agrees to pay $45,000 in feedlot penalties

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has reached an agreement with Joe Varner that requires him to pay $45,000 for alleged feedlot violations at his cattle farm near Clarissa in Todd County.

MPCA and Todd County feedlot staff inspections during 2008-2009 revealed several violations, mostly relating to pollution discharges into area waterways. According to inspection reports, Varner failed to correct identified pollution hazards which allowed manure-contaminated sediment and runoff to discharge into two road ditches, one of which leads directly to area streams and rivers. These discharges were not reported and no attempt was made to recover them once they had left the property, the MPCA said. The feedlot also exceeded its county-permitted limit of 712 head of cattle, and failed to obtain a required national pollution discharge elimination system permit once the number of cattle exceeded 1,000 head, according to the MPCA.

Of the $45,000 civil penalty, up to $15,000 may be abated if Varner can prove he spent that amount to correct the pollution hazards that allowed the discharges from his property. If this is not done to the satisfaction of the MPCA, then the final $15,000 will be due in March 2012. Varner must also submit a list of all sites in Minnesota that contain cattle he owns, along with evidence that these sites are properly registered and permitted.

The MPCA regulates the collection, transportation, storage, processing and disposal of animal manure. It also provides outreach and training for feedlot operators. More information about feedlot regulations is available on the MPCA Web site at

When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it is a first- time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. It also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner. For a comprehensive list of enforcement actions by the MPCA, refer to the agency website at