ST. PAUL – Following Governor Dayton’s announcement of plans to use an executive rule to limit farmers’ use of nitrogen fertilizers, Minnesota House Agriculture Finance Chairman Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) said he is disappointed that the governor is not trying to find common ground with the legislature and farmers.
“The governor has a troubling pattern - whether it’s a water quality certification program, neonicotinoid issues, buffer initiatives, and now nitrogen fertilizer rulemaking – where lawmakers and farmers are always the last to know or to be brought into the conversation,” Hamilton said. “This decision is short on specifics and is a reactionary re-branding of an unpopular 2017 rule that was not well-received by the ag community.”
Governor Dayton’s goal with a new rule is to lessen nitrate contamination in drinking water, which Hamilton said is a nonpartisan goal of his agriculture finance committee. The governor said the new rule is based on data collected from nearly a dozen public meetings around Minnesota over the past year, but Hamilton said that information has not been shared.
“The Department of Agriculture should come forward with its findings and share them at a legislative hearing,” Hamilton said. “We would love to hear what they learned and discovered, but there has been no attempt to brief lawmakers. The public, and especially impacted farmers, deserve to hear the department’s findings so they can weigh in with their thoughts.”
The problem with a rule such as this, according to Hamilton, is that it could potentially be enacted the day after session adjourns. With the Legislature in session until mid-May, he says there is more than enough time to get farmers and lawmakers on board with a solution that will satisfy all sides.
“Farmers strive to be good stewards of their land who have incentive to keep both the land and our water in great shape for generations to come,” Hamilton said. “Any nitrogen fertilizer solution should be farmer-driven and should be approved by a majority of state lawmakers, and not made solely by the Governor’s Office.”