Controversial New MN Conservation Program in the Works

New state program for farmers designed to increase the voluntary adoption of conservation practices that protect local rivers, streams and other waters by reducing fertilizer run-off and soil erosion is being heralded as “historic” but could create nothing more than immunity or a loophole (and big cash: technical assistance and up to $10 million in financial help from the federal government) for farmers who know how to document well:

“producers, who undertake a substantial level of conservation activities to reduce nutrient run-off and erosion, will receive assurance from the state that their farms will meet Minnesota’s water quality standards and goals during the life of the agreement . . .”

In other words: Through the partnership, producers would receive immunity (“regulatory assurance or certainty”) from regulation under Minnesota’s water quality standards in exchange for the implementation of certain conservation activities. Of course, only by enforcing such agreements via regular monitoring and water-quality testing is this truly an act of conservation.

Officially to be titled the “Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program” a Technical Advisory Committee will be developed for the certification program that will support the state’s water quality standards and goals. The committee will solicit input from stakeholders in designing criteria to provide certainty for producers who have voluntarily attained or maintained a certain level of water quality improvements on their agricultural land. Minnesota will test the program in several pilot watersheds.

YOU as a Minnesota resident should be considered a “stakeholder.” Contact your reps to voice your opinion in what could yet be a “historic” move for conservation in Minnesota:

In the article: “Water and food are two of society’s essential resources,” Governor Mark Dayton said. To that, Mr. Dayton should add “clean air” as well. Gov. Mark Dayton, EPA Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, and Ag rep Tom Vilsack signed the MOU during a ceremony in the Minnesota Capitol so if you’d like to voice your opinion on this matter you should contact them first:

Gov. Dayton
Lisa Jackson email: jackson.lisap@epa.gov
Tom Vilsack (direct) 202-720-3631

Press Release HERE.
More complete story HERE.
Pioneer Press story HERE
Star Tribune story HERE

Update (Feb 16)—New Opinion from Friends of the Mississippi River HERE
Also—Minn. Dept. of Ag. info. and email contacts HERE