Quietly Publicized Department of Agriculture Session Draws Crowd 13 Jul 17

It was a neighborhood call to arms following a last minute advisory from the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers, and even on such short notice they managed to pack the room Wednesday, at a quietly publicized listening session in McIntosh, sponsored by the State Department of Agriculture, concerning new policy that would actually prohibit the fall application of some farm fertilizer.

It is called the Draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule, impacting huge tracts of farmland in Kittson, Marshall, Polk, Pennington, Red Lake and Roseau Counties.

The proposed policy is based on ground water samples from Southern Minnesota, where the State Ag Department is working township by township on trace nitrogen in well water that they have linked to nitrogen fertilizer; Urea and Anhydrous Ammonia – applied in the fall, a standard conservation practice that few have questioned until now.

The Ag Department is promoting a statewide rule based on modeling, mapping soil types and water samples in Southern Minnesota, tagging similar soil-type in Northwestern Minnesota and then applying a general rule over-all. Although everyone at the hearing this week agreed nitrate contamination would pose a serious health hazard, producers also pointed out ground water flow in southern Minnesota is different from northwest Minnesota, objected to the one-size-fits-all process that labels area ground water “vulnerable” without science or testing and to the lack of public notice for the one hearing held in this part of the state, in McIntosh.

Public Notice has become a media concern after the schedule was first posted on the MDA Webpage, June 7th with only five sessions, none North of Wadena. The McIntosh meeting was added to the list June 27th along with a final Listening Session next Monday in St. Paul.

The new rule will become policy next year unless the agency receives more than 25 public comments, with the public comment period extending through August 11th. There is an option for official comment and more on-line at mda.state.mn.us.

We did speak with County Agent Bill Craig, who said nitrate contamination in ground water has *not* been a problem in this part of the state, adding nitrogen application in the fall is also uncommon in Northwest Minnesota and not considered “best practice” – although meeting comments would indicate it is a growing option for grass and grass seed producers.