Plenty of opinions voiced on biodiesel mandate as well

    The audience was vocal during Tuesday’s Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Town Hall meeting in the University of Minnesota Crookston’s Youngquist Auditorium. From B20 biodiesel to nitrogen fertilizer, local farmers and residents weighed in with their opinions - most of them against any more government involvement.

Draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule

    The MDA has developed a draft nitrogen fertilizer rule to regulate the use of nitrogen fertilizer in ares of the state with vulnerable soils and listening sessions to gather public input have been held in 11 locations around the state with more than 800 written comments received.

    The rule follows guidance in the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan which is the state’s blueprint for minimizing groundwater contamination from nitrates. The draft rule will be revised based on comments received and released for formal comments at the end of 2017, beginning of 2018.

    Members of the audience commented on the proposed nitrogen fertilizer rule and asked questions like, “Have you done tests to find the levels of nitrate in the soil in northwestern Minnesota?” and “What regulations do lawn care people have?”

    In regards to the question about lawn care professional regulations, MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson replied with, “We react to complaints; other than that we make an assumption that they abide by the label.”

    The audience went on to list concerns of bagged fertilizer sold at stores like Walmart and said that the “average person has no idea” how to properly use it and that they may spray their lawn and get fertilizer on the sidewalk which is then washed out with rain or a hose to the gutter. They also touched on golf courses and comparing urban to rural landscape.

    “When managing nitrogen in the environment, we look at the University of Minnesota best management practice,” explained Bruce Montgomery, MDA Manager - Fertilizer Non-Point Section.

    “We will have an announcement to make, but we can’t do that today,” added Commissioner Frederickson later in the conversation. “We have to look through all these comments first.”

    Later, after Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s  “25BY25” Water Quality Goal meeting in UMC’s Bede Ballroom, KROX Radio’s Kristi Thorfinnson asked the governor what his thoughts were on the nitrogen fertilizer rule and added that the reactions brought up at the MDA Town Hall was a victory. His response was:

    “I give the Commissioner credit for coming in and having a listening session, and giving people a chance to express their concerns and the 800 comments it shows a strong level of engagement, which it should be. Everybody’s situation is different and we need to have people understanding and cooperating instead of resisting and blaming all of us idiots in St. Paul for causing all of these problems. Which is, you know, fairly true.”

    Thorfinnson added that people were relived to hear there wasn’t a cookie-cutter solution, to which Dayton replied, “We can’t overlook these things; we can’t stick our heads in the sand and just say there’s not a problem. There are solutions and ways to make it better and ways to make this worse. We didn’t make this up, this is a reality we are facing, all of us. We’re passing this onto our kids and grandkids, so I’m very committed to doing what we can. We’ll do it better next year and the following year.”

B20 Biodiesel

    Local grower Chris Cournia commented on the mandated use of biodiesel fuel saying it’s not practical, especially for beet farmers on October 1. Another member of the audience weighed in asking, “Why do we need biodiesel? Can’t we have regular fuel?” and added that he “doesn’t like to be told what to do in America.” Someone else said, “This is not necessarily the same biodiesel you had 20 years ago. Minnesota growers pushed to get B20. Don’t forget that biodiesel contributes money per bushel.”

    In 2002, legislature passed a law requiring that diesel fuel sold in Minnesota contain at least 2 percent biodiesel. That law was implemented on September 29, 2005. Currently, 10 percent biodiesel is required to be blended with #2 diesel fuel from April 1 to September 30 each year, with the blend lowered to B5 for the colder weather months of October through March, says the MDA. The state of Minnesota is looking to move to B20 biodiesel on May 1, 2018.