PENNOCK (AP) - Officials have given the go-ahead for an 8,800-head dairy operation west of Willmar in west-central Minnesota, and construction is expected to begin next spring.

The St. Johns Township Board unanimously approved a permit Nov. 7 for the Meadow Star Dairy, owned by Riverview LLP, which owns several dairy operations in west-central Minnesota, as well as South Dakota and Nebraska.

Township Board Chairman Duane Hultgren says the project has been in the works since 2008. He says the permitting process took longer than expected, then the dairy market went sour.  He says the return to profitability for the dairy industry revived the project.

Hultgren says Meadow Star Dairy is expected to employ about 55 people from the Willmar and Pennock area, and provide other local farmers with a market for feed.