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Legislative Update (7-21-17)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Neighbors,

Some of may have heard of a new rule by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) that will affect how and when farmers can apply nitrogen fertilizer.

The proposed rule consists of two parts. The first prohibits nitrogen fertilizer application in the fall and on frozen soil in vulnerable groundwater areas. The second part provides for a mitigation process and application of best management practices in areas with high concentrations of nitrate in groundwater.

Many farmers in our area believe that department bureaucrats in St. Paul don’t understand the amount of soil testing they do, and how much care they use when farming their land. What’s more, it doesn’t seem that these proposed rules from the Department of Agriculture are based on solid scientific evidence that voluntary management practices aren’t working, or on research regarding how nitrates impacts our groundwater.  If this rule goes into effect, it could mean a one-size-fits-all solution to a complicated issue.

The Department of Agriculture claims that they are authorized to implement such extensive rules under the Groundwater Protection Act, but I believe this is a gross overstepping of the Department’s restricted rulemaking authority. These sweeping regulations should be voted on by elected representatives in the legislature.

I have drafted three bills that will address this department overreach.

The first bill would require the Department of Agriculture or Pollution Control Agency to monitor groundwater quality to objectively demonstrate that voluntary methods by fertilizer users in the area have been ineffective.

The second bill is similar to the first, but would also require the department to prove that 15% of monitored wells have reached concentrations exceeding healthy levels, or that the trend in levels shows that 15% of wells will exceed healthy levels within five years.

The third bill would exempt a section or parcel of land wholly or partially outside of a designated area from rules adopted under the Groundwater Protection Act by the Department of Agriculture or Pollution Control Agency.

It is so important that the department receives input from our farmers and citizens who are already dealing with significant over-regulation as it is. Three listening sessions have been scheduled for this coming week by the Department of Agriculture.

  • Roseau Civic Center, Wed., July 26th, 6:30 p.m.

  • Warren Community Center, Thurs., July 27th, 8:30 a.m.

  • Hawley High School, Thurs., July 27th, 7:00 p.m.

If you have time, please attend one of these sessions to share your opinion with department officials.

Written comments will also be taken by MDA through August 11, 2017. In addition, MDA may be required to hold a public hearing in 2018 if more than 25 requests for a hearing are received after the department revises the draft rule this fall.

Share your input and thoughts with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture regarding these new nitrogen fertilizer regulations.

Sincerely,

 

Steve

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