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MN Governor Unveils Plan to Restrict Fall Fertilizer Application
USAgNet - 03/12/2018

Gov. Mark Dayton has unveiled updated proposals governing nitrate runoff into groundwater, which adds restrictions on nitrogen fertilizer used in the fall. The Mankato Free-Press reports that the proposed rules come as the Dayton administration grapples with local governments and agricultural producers over runoff and water quality standards. State officials want to restrict nitrogen-based fertilizer application in some high-risk areas of Minnesota and near public water supplies during the fall months, with a few exceptions. The proposal also directs officials to build voluntary and mandatory water quality practices in high-nitrate concentration areas.

"It's a lot more focused on the problem areas in Minnesota," Dayton said at a press conference Tuesday. "It's much more attuned to farmers' concerns and complaints."

In south-central Minnesota, much of the Minnesota River and parts of Brown County would fall under those fall restrictions. Farmers commonly apply fertilizer in the fall after harvesting crops, but state officials hope the rules would mean more farmers using fertilizer in the spring. Though applying fertilizer in the spring gives farmers a tighter planting schedule, fall fertilizing increases the chance of nitrate runoff after snow melts in the winter.

The additional restrictions and exemptions come after state agricultural officials held 17 meetings across the state last fall. More than 1,500 farmers and landowners attended those meetings, according to state officials. Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said the rules focus on public drinking water sources.

The growing fight to reduce nitrates, phosphorus and other waste in Minnesota's wastewater has strained some communities and farmers. Cities are looking at high costs to replace wastewater treatment equipment while farmers worry about how the rules affect their ability to grow crops in a tight market.

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