While Duane Quam's mic-grabbing episode in Minnesota House District 25A may be grabbing national headlines, it's not the only peculiar moment in recent debates hosted by the League of Women Voters (LWV).
Take this moment during a recent LVW forum hosted by the Park Rapids Area chapter. In State rep. candidates tackle a variety of issues, Shannon Geisen reports for the Park Rapids Enterprise:
A host of questions focused on the environment.
"Our natural environment is very important to voters in these districts. What are your plans for prioritizing in the environment and how can we get various groups, like farmers, industry, etc., to work together?" Kalil asked. . . .
Green said the question implies that people aren't working together. "That's simply not true," he said. "We asked farmers to cut back on nitrogen, and they did, and received the benefits of it. We asked industry to make certain changes in the way they do business, and they have."
This is startling news to Bluestem Prairie, since Green has been a leader in invoking a figurative riot act about nitrogen rules in Minnesota. On March 15, Session Daily's Jonathan Mohr reported 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.
Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley), HF2887 would prohibit the Department of Agriculture from adopting the rules’ requirements unless they are specifically approved by law. The companion, SF2720, is sponsored by Sen. Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks) and awaits action by the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Policy Committee. It was approved by the committee and re-referred to the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Green (R-Fosston), HF2727, would prohibit the department from adopting the rule altogether. Its companion, SF2449, is sponsored by Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids) and also awaits action by the Senate agriculture policy committee. It was laid over for possible omnibus bill inclusion.
Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson gave the committee an overview of the process leading to the new proposals, which include restricting the application of fertilizer in “vulnerable” areas of the state that have more porous soils, and during the fall in drinking water supply management areas, although certain exceptions would be made. . . .
There's more. In June, Minnesota Public Radio's Elizabeth Dunbar reported in Legislature formally delays Dayton’s nitrogen rule:
A new state rule aimed at reducing groundwater contamination by farm fertilizers could be delayed by a legislative move made formal on Monday.
The state House and Senate both passed resolutions during this year’s legislative session delaying the rule in response to the possibility that Gov. Mark Dayton would veto an omnibus ag policy bill. The governor did just that, and legislative leaders have now moved forward with that delay, publishing the resolutions in the State Register. . . .
The so-called Groundwater Protection Rule has been several years in the making and looks to reduce the amount of nitrogen reaching groundwater aquifers, which many Minnesotans rely on for their drinking water. In delaying the rule, the Legislature tapped an obscure 2001 law that appears to put a check on administrative rules by giving the next Legislature a chance to weigh in on it in 2019.
But Dayton said he has instructed the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to proceed as planned and has called the Legislature’s move unconstitutional....
The unsolved and contentious problem has been recently in the news.
At MPR, Kristi Marohn reported in Report: Nitrate in drinking water a costly problem for small, rural cities:
For decades, the city of Randall, Minn., just northwest of Little Falls, relied on two wells to supply drinking water to its 650 residents.
Then, in 2015, a routine water sample the city sent to the state health department tested above the safe drinking level for nitrates. State health officials asked for a second sample, then delivered the bad news.
"They actually showed up at Randall City Hall and directed us to discontinue us using that water source immediately," said city manager Matt Pantzke. . . .
And Randall is not alone: A new report from the national nonprofit Environmental Working Group says the problem of nitrate contamination in drinking water is hitting small, rural communities like Randall the hardest — and they are the ones least able to afford treatment costs.
Nitrate contamination is a growing problem in parts of Minnesota. Drinking water with excessive levels of nitrate can cause health problems including a life-threatening disorder in infants known as blue baby syndrome. Contamination can come from different sources, but the biggest source is fertilizer and animal manure applied to farm fields.. . .
Schechinger said the good news is that those communities still have time to reduce the volume of nitrates entering their water source before they hit the federal limit, to avoid having to install expensive treatment systems.
But how to do that has been a contentious question. So far, Minnesota has relied mainly on voluntary programs that encourage farmers to reduce their fertilizer runoff.
The state Department of Agriculture is working on new mandatory rules for nitrogen fertilizer use, but the regulations have been controversial among farmers.
In July, Dunbar reported in Can Minnesota have clean water without regulating fertilizer?:
Minnesota farmers rely heavily on nitrogen fertilizer to grow the crops that help make agriculture a $75 billion industry. But the state has struggled to find the right balance between food and fuel production and clean water.
Monday's public comment hearing was technical — and dry. People from conservation groups, which want more regulation, read statements. People from farm groups, which want less regulation, read statements. Most of the 30 or so people in the audience were there to take notes, or just listen. . .
And some conservation groups, like the Freshwater Society, told the officials that the proposed rule isn't stringent enough.
"There is no clear suggestion that the regulations that will be put forth will indeed achieve clean drinking water," Brian Bohman, who spoke on behalf of the conservation group, said.
Four other public hearings are taking place this week and next in Stewartville, Worthington, St. Cloud and Park Rapids.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture hopes to finalize the fertilizer rule by the end of the year, but opponents are hoping a move by lawmakers could allow a new governor and Legislature to weigh in and block it.
Perhaps nitrogen poisoning causes amnesia. Perhaps Green genuinely believes the problem of nitrogen pollution of drinking water is solved.
There's more in the article--Green calls climate change "a scare tactic" and claims the earth is actually cooling, for example--and we're looking for a video of the forum. What a corker.
Photo: Steve Green at the debate. Cropped photo by
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