It is a busy time of the year as I juggle legislative responsibilities with taking in the crops. The recent rain is too late to help this year’s yield, but at least it will boost our water table and help ease drought conditions.
I mentioned in my last email that I was attending meetings pertaining to the Vikings stadium project and also nitrogen loading in Minnesota’s signature rivers. Here’s some follow-up information:
A hearing took place at the Capitol to discuss a recent Pollution Control Agency report regarding nitrogen loading in the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. The PCA’s report shows that more than 70 percent of nitrates in the two rivers come from cropland, with the rest coming from sources such as wastewater treatment plants, septic and urban runoff, forest and the atmosphere. Municipal wastewater contributes about 9 percent of the statewide nitrate load.
The loss of nitrogen from cropland occurs in two different ways, one being the leaching of nitrates through the soil profile, with the other being the movement of water and nutrients through drainage systems. The study showed that tile drainage accounts for the largest loss of fertilizer.
A 60-day comment period was initiated at the meeting and public review and comment will be accepted until Dec. 18, after which the recommendations contained in the report may be altered before finalization. The report will then serve as a guide for the reduction of nutrients in waters throughout the state.
One comment made by a fellow committee member during the hearing is that farmers may need to shoulder more of the cost of implementing new practices to reduce nitrogen loading. That is just one reason this hearing should have taken place any time of the year other than during the harvest season. This is the busiest time of the year for people in the ag. industry, making it difficult for them to travel to St. Paul to join the discussion.
I also attended a recent meeting of the Stadium Oversight Commission. We heard updates on the progress of negotiations with the Vikings before the final construction and usage agreements were signed. We also discussed personal seat licenses, which the stadium legislation allows the Vikings to sell. I was disappointed at the size of the licenses, which the team announced would range in price from $3,000 to $10,000 for about 75 percent of the seats in the new stadium. I was not surprised by the Vikings using PSLs to defray their out-of-pocket costs, but had hoped the fees would be lower.
Construction of the stadium seems to be on schedule, although our improving economy has inflated some construction costs. These increased costs could result in blueprint cut-backs. A parking garage and part of the gigantic swinging glass doors that were supposed to be at the front of the stadium reportedly are on the chopping block.