Dayton's water policies run afoul of farmers

In both the House and the Senate, committees heard proposals that stem from Governor Dayton's "clean water initiative."  First announced last summer, the Governor is looking to make it one of his signature achievements, but farmers are pushing back on some of his proposals. 

Gov. Mark Dayton proposed new rules to reduce nitrate levels in the state’s drinking water March 6.

The Agriculture committee heard a pair of proposals meant to reign in the rulemaking ability of the department of Agriculture.

  • Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Backer HF2887 would prohibit the Department of Agriculture from adopting the rules’ requirements unless they are specifically approved by law. It was approved by the committee and re-referred to the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee. 


  • A bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Green HF2727 would prohibit the department from adopting the rule altogether. It was laid over for possible omnibus bill inclusion.


Nitrogen fertilizer application has been regulated for some time and was most recently reviewed in the 1990s. According to Agriculture Commissioner Dave Fredrickson. “We do have a problem with nitrates in our groundwater and, as policymakers, we have a legal and we have a moral obligation to address it.”

In particular, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association representative said his members had “concerns” about the proposed rule. Corn is grown with heavy amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Their concerns are that Dayton release the rules with a 90 day comment period and maps so that individual farmers can see how they will be impacted.

In the Senate, the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee heard a bill that would enable watershed districts to trade pollutant credits for funds to do water remediation. There were also provisions to allow MPCA to increase its fees with legislative approval.

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