The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has reached an agreement with Joe Varner reports the Alexandria Echo Press.

Varner has agreeded 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 www.pca.state.mn.us.

Cattle theft sentencing moved

In related news, the sentencing Varner was to receive for his Grand Theft charge has been moved to July 14 in Codington County, S.D.  Earlier this year, Varner had been charged with Aggravated Grand Theft after 188 head of yearling heifers that were under U.S. Bankruptcy Court control turned up missing from Watertown Livestock Auction in 2009.  Varner is a former co-owner of the livestock barn there and still owns livestock sale businesses in McLaughlin and Herreid. 

Varner pled no contest. The sentencing date for Varner is now Wednesday, July 14 at 10:00 a.m. in Watertown.  Grand Theft is considered to be a Class 4 Felony, which can bring a maximum of ten years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both.