Bluestem has been following the saga of industrial spud giant R.D.Offutt's plans to expand its potato lands in rotation on to pine lands.
A group of rural Minnesotans has filed a petition asking for an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW), after the agency and the multinational corporation struck a deal that dropped an earlier plan for review by the agency.
Here's the press release:
This week, residents of north central Minnesota filed a petition calling on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to require an environmental review of industrial potato producer RD Offutt’s (RDO) planned expansion in the region, which would use over 166.4 million gallons of water per year.
The DNR, concerned about the impacts of deforestation, groundwater depletion, and heavy pesticide and fertilizer use, initially ordered an environmental review of the company’s plans to drill 54 new wells. But after RDO protested, the DNR struck a deal with the company to drop the requirement in exchange for scaling back the project. Instead, they will work with Offutt on a taxpayer-funded study that will have no impact on the potato producer’s ambitious plans to expand.
Toxic Taters, a grassroots organization based in Callaway that works throughout the potato-growing areas of Minnesota, called the deal between the DNR and RDO a mistake and filed a petition calling for an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) today. Along with filing the petition calling for the EAW, Toxic Taters and allied organizations including the Land Stewardship Project are calling on the DNR to hold a public hearing in the impacted region regarding the project. Until this point, no state agency has solicited public comments on the issue, and no plans have been announced to request input from the public.
Dave Butcher, a farmer from Pequot Lakes and member of Land Stewardship Project, helped collect signatures. “It’s not right for a corporation to be able to control its own regulatory process,” he said. “We need to make sure when projects like this come in that they’re really looking at the potential damage, and that there’s a chance for public input. This study wouldn’t do that.”
Toxic Taters Coordinator Amy Mondloch expressed concern that the agreement reached between RDO and the DNR is a failure for the state. “The EAW is the proven public process our state has to determine if projects like this are environmentally safe. We believe that the DNR has a responsibility to the public to use that process to hold corporations accountable. The agreement that RDO and the DNR have made is a failure to live up to that responsibility.”
And the petition:
After researching the growing methods used by industrial-scale potato growers like RD Offutt, Bluestem's editor decided to grow her own crop of pesticide-free spuds. Delicious. Even the cat enjoys them.
Earlier coverage on this issue:
Photo: New potatoes from our garden. The straw mulch worked to deter potato bugs, while encouraging insect helpers. We'll probably hear the in-the-bag politicians run their usual placebaiting kvetching about evil metro folks being behind the petition, but the truth is that rural people want a healthy environment, too. Also tasty wholesome taters.
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