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Huge dairy farms planned for eastern North Dakota • Minnesota Reformer

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Huge dairy farms planned for eastern North Dakota • Minnesota Reformer


Two dairy farms planned for eastern North Dakota would more than quadruple the number of dairy cows in North Dakota and provide a dramatic shift to the livestock industry in a state that has fallen behind its neighbors in animal agriculture.

Riverview Dairy, based in Morris, Minnesota, hopes to build a 25,000-cow dairy farm southeast of Hillsboro in Traill County and a 12,500-head dairy north of Wahpeton in Richland County.

The Traill County dairy would create about 100 jobs and the Richland Dairy 45 to 50 jobs, Riverview officials said.

Riverview held an open house Tuesday in Halstad, Minnesota, the closest community to the proposed Traill County dairy, to provide information and answer questions. It has not held a similar event for the Richland County project.

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Traill is an estimated $180 million project and Richland at $90 million.

Jim Murphy of the Traill County Economic Development Commission called it a “once-in-a-lifetime event for any community.”

Randy Paulsrud is a neighbor who rents the land. He said at first he wasn’t happy about losing a section of land that he farms for a dairy but now is interested in selling feed to the dairy and buying manure to fertilize other nearby fields.

“I’m on board with it,” Paulsrud said. He said he toured Riverview’s dairy near Gary, Minnesota, and came away impressed, with no concern about odor from covered manure pits.

“Oh man, it was clean,” he said.

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Leslie Viker, who owns the Herberg Township land near Hillsboro where Riverview plans to build, said she plans to continue to live near the dairy after it’s built.

“I think this is going to be great,” she said.

Martha Koehl, Riverview spokesperson, said the cows will be kept in climate-controlled barns and milking machines will operate 22 hours a day, with the other two hours for cleaning.

Koehl said the projects are contingent on Riverview finding a market for the milk they produce. She could not offer a definitive timeline for when construction and operations might begin.

North Dakota’s dairy industry has been dwindling for decades, shrinking to about 10,000 dairy cows and just 24 dairy farms.

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North Dakota state Rep. Dawson Holle, R-Mandan, who operates one of North Dakota’s larger dairy farms, said he has mixed feelings about the mega-dairy.

“I’m very concerned when it is a corporate farm that is coming in, not a family farm,” said Holle, who operates an 1,100-cow dairy farm.

Riverview is technically not a corporation, but is a limited liability partnership. It has built other large dairy farms in Minnesota and also has plans for one at DeSmet, South Dakota.

Loosening North Dakota’s restrictions on corporate farm ownership for livestock operations was one of the goals for Gov. Doug Burgum going into the 2023 legislative session.

The Legislature passed a bill that made it easier to bring in outside capital in modern livestock operations that have become major investments.

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North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said Riverview’s business structure would have allowed it to operate in the state even without the changes. But he added the bill sent a message that the state is receptive to livestock projects.

Holle was among those who voted against the corporate farm changes. Rep. Mike Beltz, R-Hillsboro, voted in favor and gave some credit to the changes for bringing the dairy to his home district.

The Legislature also passed a bill to support infrastructure projects related to agribusiness development. Beltz said that could be tapped to help pay for improving the 1-mile road that would connect the Traill County dairy to North Dakota Highway 200 and possibly for utility work.

“There’s some opportunities for some infrastructure work around the site,” Beltz said.

The Traill dairy will be called Herberg Dairy for Herberg Township and is planned just south of North Dakota Highway 200 near the Red River, about 7 miles east of Interstate 29.

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The Richland site would be in Abercrombie Township and called Abercrombie Dairy, about 7 miles north of Wahpeton. Riverview has already applied for a permit with the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality for that project.

Todd Leake of Grand Forks County questioned whether state regulators are equipped to enforce environmental regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations.

Amber Wood, executive director of the North Dakota Livestock Alliance, has been working to stimulate animal agriculture in the state.

She said she expects the growth in the dairy industry to continue to be along the Interstate 29 corridor, where there is better access to milk processing and livestock feed.

Ethanol plants, sugar beet processing plants and new soybean crushing plants at Casselton and Jamestown all provide byproducts that can be used to feed livestock.

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American Crystal Sugar has a beet plant at Hillsboro. Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative has its only beet processing plant at Wahpeton.

“Cattle absolutely love beet pulp,” Wood said.

Koehl said beet pulp and soybean could be part of the feed ration that will be primarily corn and alfalfa hay.

A state Agriculture Department map of dairy farms shows none operating in Traill County and one in Richland.

Morton County, home to the iconic “Salem Sue” dairy cow statue along Interstate 94 west of Bismarck, is down to just four dairy farms, including Holle’s.

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While North Dakota’s dairy industry has been shrinking for decades, the situation turned even more dire in 2023 when Prairie Farms Dairy closed its milk processing operation in Bismarck.

Holle said that is forcing him and others to send milk to a cheese plant in Pollock, South Dakota, nearly 90 miles south of Bismarck.

Holle said milk used for cheese production has a lower price than fluid milk and the extra freight cuts into profits.

“A lot of the dairy farmers are crunching the numbers and wondering what their future is,” Holle said.

North Dakota has fallen far behind neighboring states in the livestock sector and especially in dairy.

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South Dakota put an emphasis on animal agriculture under Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who served from 2011 to 2019, and its dairy cow numbers rebounded. South Dakota went from 96,000 dairy cows in 2000 to 187,000 in 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Holle said the North Dakota Department of Agriculture hasn’t done enough to support dairy farming.

“They can say that they’re doing a lot for farmers in North Dakota, which they are, but they’re not doing a lot for animal ag in North Dakota,” Holle said.

“There isn’t a lot that we can do,” Goehring said. “I mean, short of the Legislature wanting to do something more like build a processing facility, but I don’t see that happening either.”

He said the department can try to address some issues, “but it’s a difficult challenge.”

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A key resource for large dairies is water supply, needing 28 to 30 gallons of water per cow each day, Koehl said. That would equal at least 700,000 gallons of water per day for the Traill County site and 350,000 gallons per day for the Richland site.

Koehl said the Riverview farms squeeze the liquid out of the manure, which can be piped to farm fields for fertilizer. The solids from the manure are dried and used for animal bedding.

Koehl said the Traill dairy would fill 22 tanker loads of milk at about 7,900 gallons per tanker – more than 170,000 gallons per day.

Beltz said he was impressed by a tour of a Riverview dairy in Minnesota.

“You wouldn’t know you were standing on a site with that many animals,” Beltz said. “They’ve been here for a while. They know how to do it right.”

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This story first appeared in North Dakota Monitor, a sibling site of the Minnesota Reformer and part of States Newsroom.



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North Dakota

Man injured in accidental shooting outside Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in rural Wahpeton

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Man injured in accidental shooting outside Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in rural Wahpeton


BRECKENRIDGE, MN — One man was injured in an accidental shooting on Wednesday, July 24.

A 24-year-old man went to the hospital after he was wounded during an accidental shooting inside a motor vehicle, according to a release from the Richland County Sheriff’s Office.

The event took place in the parking lot of Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in rural Wahpeton, according to the release. The man was a contract employee working on site.

The shooting occurred shortly after noon and the man was transported to a nearby hospital in a private vehicle. First responders met him at a Breckenridge hospital.

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The name and condition of the man is currently unknown.

He was transported via LifeFlight to Fargo, the release states, and the investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of “staff.” Often, the “staff” byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.





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North Dakota Democratic delegates unanimously endorse Harris to be presidential nominee

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North Dakota Democratic delegates unanimously endorse Harris to be presidential nominee


BY: MICHAEL ACHTERLING

BISMARCK, N.D. (North Dakota Monitor) – North Dakota delegates to the Democratic National Convention unanimously endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris during a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

The announcement from the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party comes two days after President Joe Biden announced his withdrawal from the presidential race and endorsed Harris as the presidential nominee.

A delegate tracker from The Associated Press showed that Harris had enough support by Tuesday morning to make her the Democratic presidential nominee.

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Kylie Oversen, chair of the North Dakota delegation, said in a statement the Biden-Harris administration has accomplished more for rural America and North Dakota than any other administration in recent memory.

“Investments from the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act have been life changing for communities across our state and region,” Oversen said in the statement. 

She also cited the Biden administration’s investments in clean water infrastructure, broadband expansion and rebuilding roads and bridges.

“The Biden Harris administration has also prioritized investments in rural health systems, rural electric cooperatives, food security, and infrastructure in our tribal communities,” she said. “We are grateful for President Biden’s generational and transformative leadership.”

Oversen also said Harris has been fully vetted on the national stage and demonstrated her ability to lead in Biden’s administration.

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“Her commitment to reproductive justice and improving maternal health outcomes is especially important to me,” she said. “Our delegation looks forward to a fair, orderly process to nominate our next ticket for president and vice president, and we remain committed to maintaining Democratic leadership in the White House come November.”

Oversen added the delegation expressed its gratitude to Biden for his “decades of compassionate public service.”

“Biden’s decision to pass the torch to a new generation of leadership comes from a place of humility and true patriotism,” she said.

The Democratic National Convention will be held Aug. 19-22 in Chicago.



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Letter: Be wary of plans for large-scale dairies in North Dakota

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Letter: Be wary of plans for large-scale dairies in North Dakota


To the editor,

There is a history of confined animal feeding operations ruining the environment in many states. The new

Riverview Dairy

operations set to enter the eastern part of North Dakota near Hillsboro and Wahpeton should be looked at through the eyes of how we want our livestock industry to expand.

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Twenty-five thousand confined dairy cows is huge. Yes, they have state of the art waste disposal systems — or do they? What about flooding? Not unheard of in the Red River Valley. Additionally, the water required for these animals may seem fine but what about in a drought? Do you want to compete for drinking water with cows? Aquifers are being depleted for ag use already.

Twenty-five thousand animals hooked up to machines. Not grazed. Not good.

Workers will be temporary and not connected to the communities. Their money will be sent out of state/country. The money from Riverview will be sent out of the state. Riverview has multiple dairies in other states. Most inputs will be bought wholesale and not locally.

Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring said this LLP can do business without the change to our corporate farming law in the last legislative session. However, they sure are being subsidized by support for infrastructure stemming from other legislation piggy backed on that change in our anti-corporate farming law. A law that was meant to support local farmers to expand by accessing capital from other sources. This dairy will finish the small dairy opportunities in North Dakota using money meant to support them.

Karen Anderson
Warwick, North Dakota

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