Despite citizens opposition to the funding, Minnesotans will be using money earmarked for conservation for a study that will grease the way for expanding potato industry giant R.D. Offutt's pesticide-intensive agriculture on to pinelands.
The statement from the Toxic Taters Coalition and the Pesticide Action Network:
This morning, members of the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee voted in favor of $1.5 million in funding for an unprecedented study on the impacts of RD Offutt Company’s expansion into the Pineland Sands aquifer. The funding was added as a last-minute amendment to a bill for projects recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), although LCCMR members neither reviewed nor recommended the Pineland Sands study for funding.
“Our legislators and our regulatory agencies are concerned about the potential impacts of RD Offutt’s potato production in the Pineland Sands aquifer — and rightly so,” said Lex Horan of Pesticide Action Network. “But there is a sound public process already in place to gather this information: environmental review. We’re disappointed that DNR rejected a petition from local residents calling for basic environmental review. Now, DNR and legislators have proposed using money earmarked for conservation for a study that will pave the way for ongoing expansion of RDO’s pesticide-intensive agriculture.”
During the hearing, committee chair Representative Denny McNamara (R - 54B) suggested that the study was the result of an agreement among the Department of Natural Resources, RD Offutt Company, and community stakeholders. In fact, the study was designed by DNR and RDO without community input. In January, Toxic Taters, along with allies from Pesticide Action Network, Land Stewardship Project, and the White Earth Land Recovery Project, met with potato giant RDO and DNR to advocate for a stronger and more transparent study. However, negotiations ended in February when RDO left the table. No agreement was reached.
“We met with RDO and the DNR. We’ve shared with them our concerns. We did not come to any agreement. RDO walked away from the table before any serious negotiations even began. What Representative McNamara said about an agreement was simply wrong,” said Toxic Taters Coordinator Amy Mondloch.
“The residents near the potato fields do not want the Pineland Sands to be sacrificed for potatoes. By all means study the impacts of the intensive pesticide use of companies like RDO on the environment and human health. Research how corporate farming methods can be improved, but do it in areas where there is damage to be repaired, not on pristine land. Don’t destroy forests and water for corporate greed. It’s that simple,” added Mondloch.
Here's the discussion in the committee, where both state representative Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, and state representative Denny McNamara, R-Hastings both fram the study as an agreement reached by the DNR, RDO (R.D. Offutt) and stakeholders in the area, including those who oppose conversion of the pinelands to potato fields.
We think it's clear that all stakeholders are equal around this table, but some are more equal than others.
For background on why this is so, please consult our earlier posts, including the section Pine, potatoes and politics: Offutt money in Minnesota's 2014 campaigns in No small potatoes: Dept of Natural Resources requires EAW for pinelands to spud fields project and Hot potato politics: Offutt family members gave Representative Denny McNamara campaign cash.
Our post about McNamara's defense of his campaign treasures, Of the loners at the Center for Responsive Politics & McNamara's campaign finance fables, is also worth a read.
Photo: Potato harvest.
If you appreciate Bluestem Prairie's posts and analysis, you can mail contributions (payable to Sally Jo Sorensen P.O. Box 108, Maynard MN 56260) or use the paypal button below:
Email subscribers can contribute via this link to paypal; use email sally.jo.sorensen at gmail dot com as recipient.