U presents report on Clean Water to Legislature

Offers framework for $80 M annual Legacy Amendment spending

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Last Wednesday, the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center presented a report to the Minnesota State Legislature that offers a framework for an initiative to improve water quality over the next 25 years. The report included data developed by eight teams, covering a broad spectrum of aspects to water quality regulation. One of the eight, an agriculture technical work team, developed a white paper to analyze the current state of agriculture in relationship to water quality as well as to identify gaps in knowledge surrounding agricultural water issues.

“Water is a resource we all treasure, and we join all Minnesotans in the desire to work together to achieve a clean water future,” said Minnesota Corn Growers Association President Greg Schwarz, a farmer in Le Sueur, Minnesota who was a contributor to the work of the agriculture technical work team for the Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework. “Farmers have not been standing still in this quest for clean water–we are continually developing best management practices that allow us to maximize our production while minimizing our environmental impact, whether it is the methods that we use to apply inputs or the way we cultivate the soil. We welcome the infusion of more funding into research where knowledge gaps exist.

 “We feel though, that as much as we know about clean water–that berms and filter strips and other farming techniques improve water quality–we want to substantiate through research that any changes we make to farm practices will actually yield the desired results. This is especially important now that this report’s recommendations contain an aspect of mandatory regulation of these agricultural practices.”

Schwarz noted, too, that the work of improving Minnesota’s waters doesn’t rest on the shoulders of farmers alone. A special sales tax known as the Legacy Fund will contribute $80 million a year to help Minnesota achieve its clean water goals. But chipping in when you buy goods and services is only a start, according to Schwarz, who believes that everyone will have to change how they use water and their approach to many daily activities that impact water.

“This is supposed to be a map for how everyone is going to join together to improve water quality–not just farmers, but everyone, whether you live in Minneapolis, Moorhead or Le Sueur,” said Schwarz. “Everyone in the state affects water quality and quantity in some way, so when it comes to working towards clean water, municipalities, urban and rural residents and Minnesota businesses all need to join us at the work table. We’ll work together to develop a truly sustainable water framework.”

To his fellow members of Minnesota Corn Growers Association and all agricultural producers in Minnesota, Schwarz brings a message urging careful attention to this process of improving water quality, which is moving beyond the reporting phase into a work plan phase.

“One of the recommendations that came out yesterday is that we (farmers) comply with water quality standards through implementation plans for reducing pollutants and bring farmers to the table to be part of the solution…we are going to have to follow this very closely,” Schwarz said in a radio interview.

The full report to the legislature, along with the white papers from the agriculture and other technical work committees can be accessed at www.wrc.umn.edu.

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