ALJ report concludes Groundwater Protection Rule may move forward

The Office of Administrative Hearings issued its report with respect to the proposed Groundwater Protection Rule on Monday, concluding that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) may move forward with the proposed rule, subject to a few required modifications.

In August, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) testified and submitted comments showing that the additional regulations were not necessary at this time. While the administrative law judge ruled the Groundwater Protection Rule should move forward, comments from MCGA and its members resulted in the rule being improved in several key areas:

  • The definition of “nitrogen fertilizer” will be amended to clarify that manure will not be included if chemicals or other substances are added to the manure to reduce odor or gas emissions, prevent foaming, or extend the time when nitrogen remains in the soil.
  • The rule will be amended to require that MDA must apply exceptions to the regulations in areas that are not contributing to nitrate contamination in public drinking water or where contamination is caused by a point source. Under the proposed rule, MDA could choose whether or not to apply these exceptions even if all the necessary criteria were satisfied.
  • The rule will be amended to clarify important procedural requirements for hearings challenging mitigation levels assigned and orders issued by MDA.

Since 2012, MCGA has invested nearly $6 million dollars to fund research and educate farmers on ways to improve the efficient use of fertilizer in their farming operations. Minnesota’s corn farmers have made a concerted effort to more efficiently manage nitrogen applications by implementing best management practices (BMPs), as well as practices that exceed BMPs when necessary.

In written comments and testimony, MCGA and its grower members clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of these efforts in addressing groundwater quality concerns. While disappointed the administrative law judge dismissed this evidence, MCGA will promote the positive impact of targeted, voluntary measures through this process and help shape a positive outcome for Minnesota corn farmers.

MCGA will continue to invest in research, education and best practice adoption that increases the efficiency of nitrogen fertilizer use and addresses groundwater quality concerns. The overall quality of our groundwater is a legitimate concern, and we hope all of Minnesota’s corn growers join us in being part of the solution.

You can read the full report here. 

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