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County board approves conditional use permit for cattle company despite resistance from seed companies

County board approves conditional use permit for cattle company despite resistance from seed companies

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WAHOO – The Saunders County Board of Supervisors unanimously granted a conditional use permit to Mead Cattle Company with certain stipulations Tuesday after the application was tabled nearly six weeks ago for sampling purposes.

When the application by Kevin Buse of Champion Feeders LLC in Texas, who is in negotiations to purchase the cattle company, was considered on April 13, the county board heard from many attendees who expressed concerns about whether the cattle, the manure or any wells on the property contain any of the fungicides or pesticides found in the ethanol process byproducts being stored close by.

The cattle company is directly adjacent to the ethanol plant AltEn located in Mead which has been under the public purview in a negative connotation since January when an article from “The Guardian” was released in January highlighting issues with its production system and the environmental harm the byproduct has caused and could cause.

The county board required the cattle company to provide sampling of manure and wells, work with the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District on nitrate levels and allow those from University of Nebraska Medical Center leading the study on the Mead area onto property for analysis.

Because sampling can take four weeks to get results, the board tabled the topic until May 25. Andy Schulting, who has been working with Mead Cattle Company for the conditional use permit, addressed these conditions and took samples on April 19, which District 2 Supervisor Chairperson Doris Karloff viewed.

Samples were taken at two of the most active manure storage cells which would be “the best representation of new manure coming from the barns,” Schulting said. Schulting also expressed that in his experience manure samples have never been required before for something like this. Well water samples were also taken.

“We sampled for all the pesticides that had been of concern through AltEn’s processing,” Schulting said.

Schulting said after the sampling was completed they were sent to South Dakota Laboratories. For the two water samples taken, Schulting said it was “non-detect across the board for every pesticide they tested for.”

In the manure samples, they had one trace hit of thiamethoxam, but it was less than five parts per billion which Schulting said was considered as non-quantifiable.

“In general, I was pleasantly surprised to see non-detect on just about everything,” Schulting said.

After Schulting’s report the county board approved the conditional use permit with stipulations such as manure from the cattle company must be incorporated within 24 hours of application on ground and be “perpetual but shall be subject to an annual compliance review.”

District 1 Supervisor Dave Lutton made two amendments to the nine stipulations already listed in the resolution. The first stipulation was that the cattle company allow UNMC access to the property for analysis under its study. The second amendment was to provide semi-annual groundwater monitoring done by Mead Cattle which was already submitted to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy and also be submitted to the county.

This decision came after county officials and Village of Mead officials were sent a letter on May 20 from Corteva Agriscience and Syngenta Seeds, two companies that sent AltEn treated seed corn previously.

The joint letter written by both companies attorneys “on behalf of the seed companies involved in the efforts to stabilize the AltEn LLC property following the exit of the site by AltEn’s personnel,” said that Mead Cattle Company should also be responsible for the “treatment and disposal (including future liability)” of the wastewater and distillers grain byproducts from AltEn’s ethanol process.

“Only recently in the spring of 2021 have the entities apparently begun purposefully segregating activities, like in connection with the pending sale,” the letter stated.

County Attorney Joe Dobesh told the Lincoln Journal Star that the supervisors received the letter and that he wasn’t certain if it would affect the board’s decision.

“This certainly came out of the blue,” Dobesh said. “We would have appreciated these companies getting involved and getting in touch with us years ago.”

The letter was not discussed during Tuesday’s county board meeting.

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