Fertilizer Application Rule a Concern for Minnesota Farmers

Josephine Marcotty reported on the front page of today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune that, “When Marla Waseka converted the gracious Franciscan nunnery northwest of St. Cloud to a boutique lakeside resort and retreat in 2008, the nitrate levels in her well were low. A few years later they were so high she had to warn her guests not to drink the water. And when authorities warned they’d shut her down if it weren’t fixed, she spent $12,000 to drill a deeper well for clean water.

Now Minnesota is poised to roll out its first-ever strategy to protect drinking water from the farm fertilizers that carry nitrates — one of Minnesota’s worst pollution problems. What makes Waseka angry is that it won’t do nearly enough to clean up the water.

“‘This should be a much higher priority,’ said Waseka, who has followed the state’s proposed plan since her well problem. ‘Incurring a cost is one thing. Not being able to continue in business is another.'”

From the front page of today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The article noted that, “And though they have expressed support for the strategy in carefully couched comment letters, Minnesota’s top environmental officials agree with her. They say the state’s long-awaited nitrogen fertilizer management rule will place farmers’ yields above groundwater protection — and continue to put drinking water at risk.

“‘The unfortunate part is that it’s impossible to raise crops without an impact on groundwater,’ said Randy Ellingboe, head of the Health Department’s drinking water section.

“The contradiction between supporting farmers and protecting water may be inevitable in a state where agriculture contributes $19 billion annually to the economy. Every year, farmers plant 16 million acres with corn and soybeans, using close to 800,000 tons of fertilizer.”

Today’s article added that, “Anchored in the state’s 1989 Groundwater Protection Act, the rule is Minnesota’s first effort to regulate farmers’ use of fertilizer. It’s expected to be complete in late 2018, after another public comment period.

“Even so, it has generated fierce debate across the state.

 “In hundreds of comments submitted to the Agriculture Department after 17 community meetings this year, many farmers vehemently objected to a proposed ban on fertilizer applications in the fall and on frozen soils. Research has shown that much of the fertilizer ends up in the water under such conditions, and it is the least beneficial to corn.”
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