What are we to believe about the process that led to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's proposed nitrogen rule?
At Session Daily, Jonathan Mohr reports in Agriculture committee begins debate on proposed nitrogen rule:
When Gov. Mark Dayton proposed new rules to reduce nitrate levels in the state’s drinking water March 6, leaders of the House agriculture committees responded quickly, issuing a joint statement that urged the governor to “abandon his efforts to enforce this unpopular proposition.”
Those controversial nitrate rules were a focus of the House Agriculture Policy Committee meeting Thursday as administration officials appeared to explain Dayton’s proposal even as members considered one bill that would hamper its adoption and another that would stop it altogether. . . .
But down in Luverne, in the southwest corner of the state, as far from the evil metro as one can get traveling in that direction, the Rock County Star Herald reports in MDA Releases Nitrogen Management Draft; Seeks More Input On Rules:
. . .Doug Bos of the Rock County Soil and Water Conservation District was on the original advisory team that wrote the MDA draft plan last year.
He said he felt that all interests are adequately represented with the 25-member team.
“They worked with all Minnesota producer groups, universities and soil and water folks like me,” he said last summer when the draft plan was released. “It’s a very good group of people who put this together over a two-year process.”
Since then, 1,500 farmers, landowners and others participated in public comment on the proposal in 17 public meetings across the state and over 820 written comments.
“This proposal responds to what we heard,” said Ag Commissioner Frederickson. “It balances the needs of farmers and modern agricultural production with the need of all Minnesotans to have safe drinking water,”
For nearly 20 years Bos has worked locally to encourage farming practices that reduce nitrates in drinking water.
Cover crops, buffers near waterways, targeted nitrogen application and other practices are already in place.
He said farmers are receptive to changes because fertilizer is expensive and it’s in their interest to keep it from leaching into groundwater.
But data released early in 2017 show elevated nitrate contamination in more than half the wells tested in some of Rock County’s most vulnerable areas.
So, Bos said, attention now targets fertilizer application on the most vulnerable soils, especially for corn.
Research shows that only half of fertilizer applied to cornfields is absorbed and utilized; the rest is susceptible to water runoff and leaching into aquifers.
Further compounding nitrogen loss is the fact that climate change is delivering rain in “extreme weather events,” according to Bos, who notes that in the past 20 years, 30 percent of local rain has come in hard downpours.
“We have to find a way to spoon-feed it (to crops) to prevent nitrogen from getting into our water,” Bos said last year, speaking especially of areas with vulnerable soil.
“In these areas, because of their soil porosity, it’s difficult to raise a nitrogen-needing crop and keep the nitrogen out of the water,” Bos said.
He added that this sensitive land comprises a small minority of areas most affected by the nitrogen rule on fall application.
“Keeping that nitrogen in the soil is a matter of profitability for farmers,” he said. “It’s all part of a push for best management practices for nitrogen over a series of years.
Bos was in St. Paul earlier this week talking to legislators about soil and water conservation issues, including buffers and the nitrogen rule.
Despite solid support from farmers for the nitrogen rule, he said there is pushback from legislators who have been hearing from ag lobby groups opposed to the measure. . . .
Funny, but those lawmakers in St. Paul aren't sharing that solid support from farmers--or Bos's details about how "all interests are adequately represented with the 25-member team."
Here's the morning part of the hearing, via Session Daily:
In the afternoon, listeners on the streamed audio got to hear Republican lawmakers blame nitrogen problems on pooping geese and other unnamed wildlife. (We'll link to the audio archive as it is available).
Meme: If you feel you've heard the same complaining over and over from Minnesota's Republican lawmakers--and the same testimony in committees and public hearings, you probably have. Meanwhile, problems for clean drinking water, wild rice and pollinators persist.
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