If you are a rural person faced with a potentially harmful development in your area, the first step should be to get copies of the following–and read them:

  • Your County’s Zoning Ordinance (not just the CAFO ordinance!)

  • Your County’s Comprehensive Plan

  • A Copy of the Project’s Permit Application, with all support materials

Some counties publish their comprehensive plans and zoning manuals on the county’s website, but not all do. You can request copies at your county courthouse (you may need to pay for those copies). Additionally, if the project you’re concerned about is one that requires a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) or a Variance from existing zoning rules, the applicant will have to submit a permit or variance application. Larger projects (like CAFOs requiring nutrient management plans, engineering drawings, etc.) may have a “book” of support materials.

ALL MATERIALS SUBMITTED to your county in support of a permit or variance application become public documents, and once they are provided to county officials, they must also be provided to you if you ask for them. If your county officials deny you the right to see and make copies of these public documents, make sure you write down the time, date, and name of the county employee who denied you that right, in case you end up taking the matter to court.

Copying expenses can get high–if you have a smart phone, you might consider downloading a scanner app that will allow you to take pictures of paper documents and compile them automatically into a computer (pdf) file than can be emailed to yourself or others. Our staff occasionally uses the “Tiny Scanner” app.

County Site Analysis:

According to the SD Dept. of Agriculture website, “The County Site Analysis Program was designed as a service for interested counties in which GIS data is used to identify potential sites that could fit various ag related development projects.” The project was developed by First District Association of Local Governments, which, along with Planning & Development District Three have a track record of pushing counties to adopt pro-CAFO ordinances.

Nevertheless, the reports contain some good information for those wishing to get an overview of what sites were determined “Good,” “Better,” and “Best” for Industrial Ag development in each county.

Find your county’s site analysis report at the link below (Note: County site analysis has been removed from the SD Dept of Ag website!):


Rights of Way and Manure Pipes in Ditches

Section line roads/rights of way in South Dakota are sixty-six feet across. Rural landowners whose property abuts a county or township road typically own (and pay taxes on) the land from the centerline of the road to thirty-three feet out. They are required to maintain that right-of-way (typically the ditch area) and to keep that area free of obstructions.

State law reserves the right-of-way for the use of public utilities like water, electricity, and telecommunications. CAFO proponents attempted, in the 2018 legislative session, to add their force main manure disposal pipes to this section of code in order to supersede private property rights, but Dakota Rural Action members defeated that bill.

Some counties and townships have also granted permission to CAFO owners to run manure pipes across private property without landowner permission–generally in an attempt to save on road maintenance. In the view of many attorneys, this policy is an illegal taking of private property rights, and is likely to end up in a lawsuit against the county.

At this time, CAFO operators have no legal right to run their manure pipes through the right-of-way across your property without your permission.

A safer policy for counties and townships to adopt is one requiring CAFO owners to obtain express written permission from landowners across whose land they wish to lay manure pipes, along with a $5 million bond in case of accidents or spills.


Who else of your family, friends, and neighbors is directly affected by the proposed development? Talk to them to see what their concerns are. If there is a group of affected people in your county, call a house meeting to talk through concerns and to read through the application and other documents. If you want help, give us a call at (605) 697-5204 or email: action@dakotarural.org.

Dakota Rural Action won’t fight a CAFO for you, but we can help you and your community with the tools and expertise to clearly understand your county process. We can help you bring your concerns and facts about the potential problems and weaknesses in the application to your county decision-makers, and to work with them to make a good decision that protects the health, safety, and welfare of your community.

And, of course, we invite you to support our work and to join Dakota Rural Action, and if you wish, become a member of our Rural Vitality Committee. The “RVC” is made up of citizens just like you–many of whom have learned about CAFOs the hard way, and who are interested in helping to educate and organize others to protect their community and environment.