Groundwater Protection Rule

Groundwater Protection Rule

The proposed Groundwater Protection Rule, previously referred to as the Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule, is based on the Minnesota Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan, which outlines the state’s strategy for preventing contamination and responding to elevated nitrate from fertilizer in groundwater. This plan first originated in 1990. For a complete historical timeline, click here.

The proposed Groundwater Protection Rule, the statement of need and reasonableness, appendixes for the statement of need and reasonableness, and additional documentation is available on the MDA website here.

Latest Updates

On October 1, the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) issued its report concluding that MDA may move forward with the proposed rule, subject to a few required modifications. Click here to read more. 

MDA subsequently agreed to make the modifications to the rule suggested by the administrative law judge, and the proposed rule was resubmitted to the Office of Administrative Hearings for final approval.

On Nov. 29, the Chief Administrative Law Judge issued a new Order determining that the prior defects had been corrected. However, the Chief Administrative Law Judge also determined the proposed rule could not be finally adopted until after the 2019 legislative session as a result of resolutions passed by the agriculture committees in the Minnesota House of Representatives and Minnesota Senate during the 2018 legislative session.

It is important to note that while the final adoption of the Groundwater Protection Rule has been delayed, the rule is proposed to become effective January 1, 2020. Read more.

Please continue to check back at for additional updates on the rulemaking process.

MCGA’s Role

It is vital for Minnesota agriculture that MCGA and corn farmers provide comment to ensure the rule accomplishes its goal of protecting water while making sense in implementation. MCGA has been involved with the development of the rule and will continue to advocate for, and address the concerns of, corn farmers.

To date, MCGA has submitted five letters of comment on previous versions of the rule. MCGA grower leaders have also worked closely with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to further communicate why certain changes to the rule are necessary.

Click the links for MCGA comments during the initial and rebuttal comment periods, and verbal testimony during July and August Administrative Law Judge hearings.

MCGA worked hard to modify and improve the most onerous provisions of the initial drafts of this rule.  Due to the many comments submitted by corn farmers, the advocacy of MCGA and other organizations, we have been able to make the new rule more workable than the initial proposals. In addition to working with state officials through the rulemaking process, Minnesota’s corn growers have continued their proactive efforts to better protect water quality.

Since 2012, MCGA has invested nearly $6 million dollars in research and farmer education 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.

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.