Conservation Minnesota

Proposed Fertilizer Rule Not Enough to Protect Drinking Water

As Policy Manager for Conservation Minnesota, I monitor current issues that affect the Minnesota you love. Part of that work involves officially commenting on proposed rules or pending decisions with various state agencies.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has proposed a new rule to adopt mandatory requirements to prevent nitrate contamination in groundwater. While the proposed rule is a step in the right direction, we must do more to protect our state’s drinking water. The proposed rule only limits fall and winter fertilizer application in designated areas of the state. Excluding the entirety of our state from this proposed rule would be a misstep. We must work towards the goals of the Clean Water Promise and provide safe drinking water for all future generations.

I recently wrote a letter to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture expressing these concerns:

Mr. Larry GundersonMinnesota Department of Agriculture

RE: Proposed Rule Governing Nitrogen Fertilizer, Minnesota Rules, 1573; Revisor’s ID Number R-04337

Greetings Mr. Gunderson,

I am writing to you on behalf of Conservation Minnesota. As an organization, we work to solve the conservation problems that are most important to Minnesotans.

We write regarding the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s proposed rule adopting mandatory requirements to prevent nitrate contamination in groundwater. While this proposed rule is an important step towards protecting Minnesota’s drinking water, the proposed rule does not go far enough. Restricting fall and winter nitrogen fertilizer application is essential to preventing contaminated groundwater. However, this restriction only applies to the most vulnerable areas within the state. And further more, many farmers already restrict their use of nitrogen fertilizers in the fall and winter. The rule should consider requiring fertilizer limitations on additional lands to ensure that our water is better protected for safe human consumption.

Restricting nitrogen fertilizer use is only one means to safeguard drinking water – other options would create even more protection. A more extensive and comprehensive rule, requiring broader restrictions to even more areas of the state, would be a healthier option for Minnesotans. We appreciate the effort put into this proposed rule to improve water quality, but we believe the rule can go even further. Additional steps should be taken to protect Minnesota’s precious water resources, and this proposed rule leaves some vulnerable water resources needing additional protections.

This proposed rule is on the right path to protecting drinking water for all Minnesotans. However, we ask that you continue to develop the rule to enhance those protections.

Thank you,Nels PaulsenPolicy ManagerConservation Minnesota

In the future, I plan to share with you more of the comments and letters I put together on behalf of Conservation Minnesota. By submitting these opinions to decision-makers, I hope to continue to protect the Minnesota we love for future generations.

About Nels Paulsen

Nels Paulsen

A man of few words, but a great deal of action, Nels Paulsen serves as policy director for Conservation Minnesota. In that role, he helps the organization set our public policy strategy and then works with the field and communications teams to see that they are successfully implemented. A passion for the great outdoors was a driving force behind the Wisconsin-native’s decision to become a lawyer, and ultimately join our team. 

Saying that his perfect day includes fishing, and that the three things he can’t live without are a fishing pole, his phone and cheese, it only seems natural that he describes his favorite place in the state as being Lake Saganaga. On May 13, 1979, the state record walleye was pulled from the waters just outside the cabin his family owns up there.

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