What's the Hold-Up?

Northstar Notes

Still waiting for the state's revised nitrogen fertilizer management plan.

Published on: July 24, 2013

Given all that has been going on for the past decade with ag water quality, one would think this piece would have been taken care of awhile ago.

In 2010, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture started the process to revise the state's 20-year-old Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan to better align it with current water resource conditions and program resources.

That was a good move.

A Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan advisory committee was formed to assist the MDA in the revision process, a process that was expected to take 18 to 24 months.

After the final advisory committee meeting, MDA was supposed to complete edits to the plan and then release it for public comment. Statewide public hearings would then be part of the revision process.

Well, 2013 is half over and we still have not heard or seen anything about the revision.

I'm asking questions about it now because Minnesota Pollution Control Agency referenced the revision in its 444-page report on nitrates in surface waters. Specifically, MPCA noted:

"Concurrent to this report writing, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is updating the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan. The MDA plan offers more information on agricultural N in soils and water."

In its report, MPCA encouraged farmers to refer to the plan for additional background information related to N forms, transport to groundwater, health concerns, well-water conditions, N fertilizer sales and sources. It is available online.

I didn't see anything new at this link. There is nothing posted at all for 2013. The December 2012 agenda and minutes are the last items posted on it.

Eight months have gone by and there is nothing new to report?

Agriculture continues to get more than its share of negative press, especially when it comes to ag water quality.

We have the people, agencies, staffs, etc., to work on this issue.

So where is the revision?

Possibly, attention and resources have been a bit stretched and/or diverted to roll out the state's new voluntary ag water quality certification program, which is being closely watched by state and federal officials as both a state and national pilot. And other state-wide organizations and entities that deal with ag water quality issues have been working on their own programming and activities.

Yet, that does not excuse the tardiness.

The N fertilizer revisions could have been announced around the time of the MPCA nitrate report.

That would have been timely—and been proactive.

UPDATE: And the report has been released, learn more here.