Agriculture interests wielding big influence at Legislature

REUTERS/Larry Downing

MPR’s Tom Scheck has a piece on the influence of agriculture interests at the state Capitol: “Months after rural voters helped Republicans reclaim the majority in the Minnesota House, lawmakers in both parties are looking to weaken environmental laws tied to agriculture. Legislation helping the agribusiness industry is moving through the House and Senate and environmental groups appear unable to stop it. Gov. Mark Dayton’s push to require farmers to leave a 50-foot buffer zone unplanted around rivers is facing stiff resistance from agriculture lobbying groups. Dayton hits the road this week to press for his buffer plan, arguing that it will reduce pesticide and fertilizer runoff that is harming the environment. It’s not clear, however, what kind of clout he holds now in Minnesota’s farm country.”

The Pioneer Press’ Nick Ferraro reports that the owner and operator of the food truck that blew up in a Lakeville neighborhood last month was warned by the city that he was not allowed to park or store the vehicle in residential areas. Although Marty Richie complied and moved his Motley Crews Heavy Metal Grill food truck from his driveway in late 2012, it eventually returned. ‘He’s parked it in his driveway for the last couple of years,’ Richie’s neighbor Karl Weissenborn said recently, echoing what several other neighbors told the Pioneer Press in the aftermath of the explosion. Lakeville city code prohibits food trucks and other commercial vehicles from being parked or stored in residential driveways, unless it is temporary and for a service benefiting the property. Moving trucks and contractor vehicles, for example, are excluded from the city ordinance.’”

This is disturbing. Chao Xiong of the Star Tribune writes, “A Shoreview man dragged a 15-year-old girl into his car against her will Saturday, locked her inside and drove off in an attempt to force her into marrying him in accordance with traditional Hmong marriage customs, according to charges filed Tuesday. ‘You will never see your parents again!’ Kong Meng Xiong, 21, allegedly told the girl as he drove to his home in Shoreview. Xiong was charged in Ramsey County District Court with kidnapping, third-degree criminal sexual conduct and false imprisonment. ‘This is a very disturbing case involving the victimization of a 15-year-old girl that cannot be tolerated in our community,’ Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a written statement. ‘Women and girls are not property.’”

Keeping an eye on St. Cloud. Even as the state Legislature debates privacy issues around license plate readers, some departments are forging ahead. According to the St. Cloud Times, “St. Cloud has agreed to enter into a partnership with Mille Lacs County that will pave the way for city officers to use license plate readers. St. Cloud is paying for one camera for one squad car, and Mille Lacs County will provide the rest of the infrastructure and will store the data that St. Cloud gathers. St. Cloud officers will be able to access a database that contains alerts about stolen, suspicious or wanted vehicles and can match the data they gather with that license plate numbers in that database.”

Wait, they haven’t tried this before? CBS Minnesota’s Jeff Wald writes, “Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is asking state lawmakers to fund a statewide plan to synchronize traffic lights to ease congestion. Twin Cities motorists spend 63 hours a year sitting in traffic …. One solution to speeding it up: Synchronize traffic lights to keep the cars moving. ‘Most of our lights have not been synchronized for years, if ever at all,’ Dayton said earlier this year to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. There are about 4,000 traffic signals in Minnesota, most of them in the metro area. The inventory would include the heaviest traveled intersections, which see about 20,000 cars a day.”

That’s one way to do it. MPR’s Curtis Gilbert reports on one novel plan to break down Minnesotans’ penchant toward cliquishness: “A St. Paul community organizer has a plan to make the city more welcoming to newcomers: Free winter hats. Thanks to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Jun-Li Wang will get $100,000 to make it happen. Wang was among the winners announced Tuesday as part of the foundation’s Knight Cities Challenge. She envisions civic leaders bestowing fur-lined caps on new residents at a monthly ceremony to help them survive their first winters. … Wang also sees the ceremony as a way to thaw a culture she and other transplants find chilly at first. ‘People here are not very good at asking each other questions: ‘Hey can I have your number? Some of us are going to go do something next weekend. It would be great to have you come along,’ she said.”

The Strib’s Libor Jany reports on John Delmonico, who is being challenged to retain his job as head of the Minneapolis police union, which represents the city’s 850 rank and file officers: “Delmonico finds himself in a tough fight for re-election after his longtime second-in-command announced that he’s running for the top leadership job, setting off a fierce behind-the-scenes battle for the allegiance of the city’s rank-and-file police officers. Lt. Bob Kroll, who was named union vice president in 2006, said he plans to run in this month’s election and has already secured support of a former union chief.”

It’s about time. The AP reports that the University of North Dakota is finally getting around to figuring out a new nickname. “The school’s nickname committee will be accepting submissions beginning Wednesday until the end of the April. The names must be 25 characters or less. The committee says it is looking for nicknames that are unique, promote pride and strength, represent the state and region, honor the traditions and heritage of the past, and can be a unifying and rallying symbol. A consulting group will research the suggestions for any trademark or copyright infringement. The committee will narrow down the choices for a public vote. The school’s Fighting Sioux nickname was retired in June 2012, after which the Legislature enacted a three-year moratorium on a new moniker.”

We shall never forget … Dancegate. WCCO-TV’s John Lauritsen has the follow up: “It’s been a month and a half since a dance team’s state title was protested by their competitors. Last month, the Faribault dance team won the State 3-A high kick competition. The five teams they were competing against refused to take their places during the awards ceremony. Those teams alleged that Faribault stole their routine from a dance team in Utah. From the start, Faribault coach Lois Krinke has denied plagiarizing the routine. ‘There may have been four counts here or there that had similar routines, but it was not plagiarized,’ Krinke said in February. The Minnesota State High School League agreed, and investigations began at the five schools surrounding the incident. Krinke said so far two of the schools have sent apologies, but she believes only one is sincere. ‘The only apology I received that I felt was a little bit on the sincere side was the Chaska dance team,’ Krinke said.”

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/01/2015 - 07:31 am.

    Morning Glean

    Isn’t Brian doing the morning Glean any longer? For several days now, both morning and afternoon editions have said “MinnPost staff”.

  2. Submitted by Rod Loper on 04/01/2015 - 08:44 am.

    Big Agriculture

    They even want to repeal the sales tax on drain tile. I didn’t realize there was a wetland left out there.

  3. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/01/2015 - 09:53 am.

    Back To The Future For UND

    UND should revert to the nickname they used before they became the Sioux, the flickertails. Either that or the Suzies.

  4. Submitted by Joe Smithers on 04/01/2015 - 11:45 am.

    buffer plan

    The plan is very ill conceived since it will have little actual effect and not be possible to enforce (it is already near impossible to gain judgment in courts for land use issues). The plan lacks any real critical thinking on the issue. Tile drainage would continue to be a large issue under this plan and was not addressed at all. Farmers simply will not give up crop production without being compensated for it. You know there is an issue if you look at the ditches this spring and also read the nutrient reduction strategy but unfortunately Dayton lacks the ability to address it.

    • Submitted by Robert Henderson on 04/01/2015 - 01:03 pm.

      Then let’s just charge them

      for what runs off their land from the drain tiles and the ditches. They could pay to clean up the pollution and to mitigate the flooding.

      Currently we (the rest of society) makes those payments on the behalf of the farmer.

      • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 04/01/2015 - 02:04 pm.

        Go ahead and do that and they will either quit farming altogether or charge you accordingly to buy their products. So far it’s been a trade off with society on what has been acceptable. This is changing as more people become environmentally concerned. There simply is no way production land will be taken out of service without government assistance rather than forcing them. The governor does not understand this and doesn’t realize the best way to get compliance is with the carrot not the stick.

        • Submitted by Robert Henderson on 04/01/2015 - 07:30 pm.

          Quit? Really?

          You think people will quit farming rather than put in a 50′ buffer? Really? I don’t think so.

          Here, and I hope I did the math correctly. 1 mile of 50′ buffer would be 262,000 sq. ft. An acre has 43,560 sq. ft. So that buffer would be 6.02 acres. Average yield corn yield in Minnesota 2013/14 was 168 bushels for acre. So that land would yield 1,012 At $4 per bushel that $4,048.

          Maybe that price gets added in, fine with me if it does. But, surely you know that commodity prices are not set by the input prices.

          The point I was trying to make was, there is a real cost to farming practices in water pollution and water run off. Give me a good argument on why that cost should not be bourn by the producer of the pollution and the run off.

          Finally, the least expensive most effective way place to treat the problem is at the source.

          • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 04/02/2015 - 11:23 am.

            my point

            “Maybe that price gets added in, fine with me if it does. But, surely you know that commodity prices are not set by the input prices.” Thanks for making my point for me. Input price per acre would climb without compensation to farmers in the form of payments to offset acres taken out of production. If you did your math correctly that works out to $4,048 per acre at that price. Each farmer would lose more than 1 single acre you realize. Many would simply rather quit than face more regulation. Either way, if you want to believe they would quit fine if not fine but the plan is simply not able to be enforced and would not have a significant effect anyway. It might be a starting point but it really isn’t based on sound thinking.

            • Submitted by Robert Henderson on 04/02/2015 - 07:25 pm.

              Correction

              If I did the math correctly it would be approximately $4,000 for the mile of buffer.

              Anyway, I’m glad it’s a starting point.

              Front page today in the Minneapolis paper – “Tainted wells tied to farm runoff” You might give it a read. I think that it bolsters my point that there are costs for agricultural practices that are imposed on others, those downstream, literally. It cost the city of Adrian an original $259,000 for the filtering equipment. Then the article stated that there was yearly expense of up to $53,365/yr. I don’t know if the yearly expense included amortization of the equipment or if it was operating cost, that needs to be clarified, but clearly there are some operational costs each year that can be factored in as well. But, just using the original investment of $259,000 it would pay for 63 miles of buffer.

              One can pay for those costs downstream or upstream at the source. If you do it at the source there is the significant ancillary advantage of creating valuable habitat. I think that is better than paying for a fancy filtration system at the drinking end.

              • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 04/03/2015 - 10:00 am.

                well said

                “One can pay for those costs downstream or upstream at the source. If you do it at the source there is the significant ancillary advantage of creating valuable habitat. I think that is better than paying for a fancy filtration system at the drinking end.” It’s a trade off that so far the public has been willing to accommodate but that is changing and the public is beginning to demand a cleaner operation from farms. Agriculture will have to accommodate this eventually. I didn’t read the article since you didn’t link it but usually you have to prove it. If you can prove that farm runoff actively is or was running into the well fine but it might be difficult to prove. Maybe there was a spill or something or overapplication of fertilizer/manure that caused it but it depends on what they say is linking the wells to the farm runoff.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/01/2015 - 02:19 pm.

    Buffers

    I’m with Robert Henderson on this one. Farmers – I was one myself a few decades ago – are no more immune to self-serving lobbying and public statements than any other group that likes to think of itself as being entrepreneurial, and therefore the saviors of modern civilization. If they won’t cooperate at the input end of it, I see nothing wrong, especially on the ethical front, with making them pay for their environmental sins at the output end.

Leave a Reply