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To solve Minnesota’s water quality problems, agribusiness’ power must be confronted

Thanks to Gov. Mark Dayton, water quality has been a focal point of discourse in Minnesota for a while now. After passing a buffer rule through the Legislature last year, Dayton this year proposed borrowing $220 million to improve water quality and will convene Minnesota’s first-ever water quality summit at the end of February. While these are welcome advances in Minnesota’s quest to secure clean water for all, Dayton must confront the power of corporate agriculture if he intends to address the problem of water pollution at its source.

Research shows that one of the biggest threats to our water is how corporate agribusinesses are running – and ruining – Minnesota’s farms. Their factory farms crowd too many animals into too little space with no place to put all their waste. The state’s livestock produces enough manure to be equivalent to that of a population of 45 million humans.

Whereas humans have built sewage systems to deal with their waste, factory farms lack any such system, instead spreading the manure on already overfertilized fields and storing it in leaky waste lagoons. The algal blooms in Lake Erie and in the Gulf of Mexico are glaring examples of the end result of these practices.

There are many things that corporate agribusinesses can do to keep their pollution out of our waterways, from only applying as much fertilizer as their crops need to creating buffer zones to minimize runoff pollution and using cover crops. It’s high time corporate polluters put these solutions to work for all of our waterways.

Peter Suechting is a clean water organizer at Environment Minnesota.

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