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Mickelson Gets Easier CAFO Zoning, Nice Agropur Dairy Contract

CAFO-crazy city slicker G. Mark Mickelson batted .500 in getting Legislative wins this Session for his CAFO consulting firm, A-1 Development Solutions. We beat back House Bill 1184, the CAFO poopline bill that would have let CAFO operators run their animal waste disposal lines through the right of way without getting any landowner permission. But CAFOs got a gift in House Bill 1292, which limits court appeals of CAFO permits to reviewing jurisdiction and legal procedure, not environmental impacts of the proposed CAFO. According to Dakota Rural Action, HB 1292 makes it easier for counties to approve CAFOs by simple majority rather than two-thirds votes.

Speaker Mickelson also appears to have a stake in the big cheese business supported by our CAFO dairies. According to the March 5, 2018, minutes of the Lake Norden City Council, A-1 Development Solutions agent Ty Eschenbaum requested and got “a permanent easement parcel and construction easement parcel in Block 4 of the Railroad Addition, located in the NW Quarter of the SW Quarter & Government Lot 4 of Section 21, all in Township 113, Range 53 West of the 5th P.M., Hamlin County, South Dakota for and in behalf of Agropur Inc.” The council approved that easement unanimously.

A-1 Development Solutions—Eschenbaum works for Mickelson and Paul Kostboth, Eschenbaum’s old boss at the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

Québec-based dairy cooperative Agropur is expanding its Lake Norden cheese factory with the benefit of seemingly unnecessary tax increment financing. Agropur says it will create 125 more jobs (on top of 225 at the plant now) and triple its cheese production in Lake Norden. Meeting the expanded plant’s processing capacity of nine-million-plus pounds of milk will require 85,000 more cows.

85,000 more cows—add those to the 118,000 cows already pumping out their creamy goodness at South Dakota’s CAFOs, and we’ll be back to the 200,000 head of dairy cattle that Daugaard says South Dakota had back in the good old days (you know, back before the state began subsidizing CAFOs with EB-5 dollars and other crony capitalism to crowd all the small dairies out of the market).

But hey, even if 85,000 more cows only bring us a dozen more CAFOs, G. Mark Mickelson will be happy to take consulting contracts from all dozen of them and charge them a hefty fee to help them through the regulatory processes that he and the Legislature have made ever easier.


  1. mike from iowa 2018-03-16 20:23

    How many family dairys go under because Agropur refuses to buy their milk?

    The way to raise milk prices is to get rid of small competitors. Happening all over America.

  2. Debbo 2018-03-16 20:36

    After living in SD under the governorship of George Michelson, an ethical, compassionate and decent man, his son is so disappointing.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2018-03-16 21:56

    Another perfect example of why South Dakota remains one of the most corrupt states in the country.

  4. Jason 2018-03-17 06:42


    SD doesn’t even come close to Illinois and New York when it comes to corruption.

    Wisconsin is losing dairies. At issue is a U.S-Canada trade dispute over what’s called “ultra-filtered milk,” a protein liquid concentrate used to make cheese. Grassland said it lost its Canadian business when Canada changed its dairy policies to favor domestic milk over a supply from the U.S.

    So if SD is gaining cows and Wisconsin is losing them, what is the problem Cory? That sounds like a win for SD.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-03-17 10:03

    Jason, your position seems to be a specific example of the more general position that as long as GDP goes up, life is good. However, if that GDP increase—in this case, a cow increase—is concentrated among a few wealthy owners while more small owners are driven out of the market and the entire state experiences greater environmental harms, life isn’t that good.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2018-03-17 11:07

    Your attempt to deflect from has failed.
    I made no comparison to other states, South Dakota remains as one of the most corrupt states in the union.

  7. Buckobear 2018-03-17 15:31

    What’s the sense of being in the Ledge if ya can’t line your pockets and help out yer friends ??

  8. Jason 2018-03-17 18:04


    How is the SD legislature driving small farmers out of the milk business?

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-03-18 12:49

    Mickelson is using his legislative position to weaken CAFO regulations, making it easier for big operations to come in and crowd out small dairies, a trend that state government has supported since EB-5 days and before. We used to have thousands of dairy producers; now we have a few hundred.

  10. Jason 2018-03-18 13:10


    How are CAFO’s hurting the small dairy guys?

  11. Jason 2018-03-18 14:04

    Your link doesn’t show how the cafo’s are making the small guy stop stop milking cows.

  12. Jason 2018-03-18 14:09

    No one is stopping the family farm from hiring H2A workers. No one is stopping them from looking for investors themselves.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-03-19 05:54

    Jason, do you really want to play that dense about market forces? The state favors big dairies, artificially lowering the per-gallon production price for CAFOs and making it harder if not impossible for dairies with smaller herds to compete?

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