Meetings set on nitrogen fertilizer plan

The first of five “listening sessions,” hosted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to receive citizen comment on a new nitrogen fertilizer plan, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, in Marshall.

The event will be at the Marshall Public Library, 201 C. Street.

In early August, the Ag Department released a draft revision of the Minnesota’s 20-year-old Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan for public comment. The plan is the state’s blueprint for prevention or minimization of the impacts of nitrogen fertilizer on groundwater.

Nitrogen-based farm fertilizers are a major source of pollution of groundwater, lakes and streams. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is readying a plan aimed at reducing the surface water pollution.

The Ag Department plan proposes extensive testing of well water in townships where pollution of groundwater is suspected to exist and geological conditions are conducive to contamination.

Where testing showed evidence of serious contamination, the department would seek citizen support for much greater use of voluntary best management practices aimed at reducing the pollution.

The next step under the plan might be for the department to seek public support and financial assistance for more serious changes in farming practices, such as altering crop rotations or taking some land out of production.  Finally, state law allows the department to impose regulation if the implementation of best management practices has proven to be ineffective.

Read the Ag Department draft nitrogen plan. Public comment on it will be accepted through Nov. 1. Read the MPCA’s huge report on nitrogen pollution, titled Nitrogen in Minnesota Surface Waters.

In  addition to the Sept. 5 meeting in Marshall, the Ag Department has listening sessions scheduled throughout September in Crookston, Wadena, St. Cloud, Rochester and Roseville. View the schedule of meetings.