microphone and empty seats Mariakraynova/Getty Images
FARMERS NEEDED: Low attendance at informational meetings on the proposed groundwater protection rule held by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is disappointing.

Show up, speak up

Ag officials want to hear your comments on the proposed groundwater protection rule.

More than once during the June 5 groundwater protection rule informational meeting held in Red Wing by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Commissioner Dave Frederickson asked farmers for their input.

Not hearing any comments, he asked more pointedly, where is it onerous? Does it scare you?

One farmer responded, sharing her troubles with two other state agencies and water quality issues. She offered nothing specific to the proposed rule, other than there is a lack of trust between farmers and government agencies.

Of the 20-some people in attendance that night, only five were farmers. The rest were mostly agency people. Three ag organizations had representatives. One agribusiness professional and one local resident showed up, as well as one media person (me).

This was MDA’s 20th meeting on the proposed rule since last summer. It hasn’t been the only meeting with only a smattering of farmers in attendance.

Those informational meetings will continue, even after the Minnesota House and Senate ag committees submitted a resolution to delay the adoption of the proposed rule until the end of the next legislative session in May 2019. The proposed rule wouldn’t go into effect until 2020.

What gives with the low attendance? Is there meeting fatigue on the part of farmers? Frustration that government agencies aren’t listening?

Either excuse is understandable, given our current political climate and the day-to-day challenges facing the business of farming. Yet, for all the vehemence expressed regarding the rule, these low attendance numbers are troubling.

Each of us bears responsibility for personally learning about an issue, especially this one. MDA is making good-faith efforts to provide information and staff hosts at these meetings, which are not required as part of the formal hearing process.

Those who have responded with comments to MDA over the past year on the proposed N fertilizer rule made a difference. Numerous modifications were made based on those comments. Learn what revisions were made following the 2017 meetings online

And read the ag committees’ resolutions published in the Minnesota State Register for June 11 on the sixth and seventh pages of the PDF. 

More informational meetings
A few informational meetings hosted by MDA remain:

• June 18, 7 to 8:30 p.m., Minnesota West Community and Technical College, 1314 N. Hiawatha Ave., Pipestone

• June 19, 8 to 9:30 a.m., Ridgewater College, 2 Century Ave. SE, Hutchinson

• June 28, 8 to 9:30 a.m., Orville L. Freeman Building, 625 Robert St. N, St. Paul

Formal hearings
Following these informational meetings, the formal hearings required on the proposed rule will be held before an administrative law judge in July:

• July 16, 1 to 6 p.m., Robert Boeckman Middle School, 800 Denmark Ave., Farmington

• July 18, 1 to 4 p.m., Stewartville Civic Center, 105 First St. E, Stewartville

• July 19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Minnesota West Community and Technical College, 1450 College Way, Worthington

• July 25, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., River’s Edge Convention Center, 10 Fourth Ave. S, St. Cloud

• July 26, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., American Legion, 900 First St. E, Park Rapids

Go online for more information about the formal hearing and comment process and the groundwater protection rule.

Rather than grouse about government with gossip gathered via the grapevine, educate yourself. Please visit the above websites, learn as much as you can, ask lots of questions and let MDA hear from you.

TAGS: Water
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