Farmer’s Winter Livestock Feeding Fields Subject to State Disposal System Permit But Not A Federal Permit.

A farmer operated a farm including two registered feedlots and 4,000 acres of cropland. Each winter, the farmer would place more than 2,000 beef cattle on approximately 400 acres of its cropland. The resulting cattle density was several times higher than for a typical foraging field and, although there was at least an initial vegetative cover, the farmer provided his cattle with feed that supplied at least 90 percent of their nutritional needs. The Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) required the farmer to obtain a State Disposal System (SDS) permit for his winter cattle lands The MPCA also determined that the farmer needed a federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit because his operation was an animal feeding operation (AFO). The farmer challenged the administrative decisions, and the court reversed in part and affirmed in part the agency’s ruling. The court found that the farmer’s operation was not an AFO under 40 C.F.R. § 122.23(b)(1) because the farmer’s winter feeding fields sustained crops in the normal growing season. The “no vegetation” requirement in the regulation applied only to the normal growing season. The court did find, however, that the agency correctly determined that the concentration of cattle on the farmer’s winter fields was not commensurate with the statutory definition of “pasture” under  Minn. Stat. § 116.07, subd. 7d(b). The farmer’s cattle were not "allowed to forage" on the winter feeding fields and they did not qualify for the statutory pasture exemption. Accordingly, the winter feeding fields required an SDS permit.  On appeal, the state Supreme Court affirmed.  In the Matter of Reichmann Land and Cattle, LLP., No. A13-1461, 2015 Minn. LEXIS 385 (Minn. Sup. Ct. Jul. 29, 2015), aff'g., 847 N.W.2d 42 (Minn. Ct. App. 2014).