Category Archives: Agriculture

Westrom Tells EPA to Ditch New Navigable Waters Rule

 

(ALEXANDRIA, Minn.) – Today, Torrey Westrom submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency over the EPA’s proposed rule to redefine “waters of the U.S.” – or navigable waters – under the Clean Water Act.

The new rule would redefine navigable waters as any body of water that is adjacent to or near a larger downstream water source, making it subject to federal regulations and permitting. The rule would also allow the EPA to seek comment on other waters, which could later be subject to regulation as well.

After hearing concerns from farmers and voters in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District, Westrom submitted the following comments to the agency:

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest proposal to change the definition of ‘navigable waters’ under the Clean Water Act is a naked attempt to expand their own authority beyond the scope of the law and will have devastating consequences for Minnesota’s farmers, families, land owners and small business owners.

“Congress was clear when it passed the Clean Water Act that the EPA’s authority would cover ‘navigable’ waters, but this new rule will extend the EPA’s authority to everything from small ponds to ditches in fields. This is government overreach, pure and simple. Federal officials are throwing the legal definition to the wayside and creating nearly limitless regulatory authority, which will hurt our communities. Any changes should be made through the legislative process, where voters can keep government accountable, rather than through a federal agency’s rule making.

“Farmers and small business owners in places like where I live in Elbow Lake, and our surrounding agriculture communities in northwest Minnesota, cannot afford any more burdensome regulations handed down from the federal government. After a historically harsh winter and with a sluggish economy, the last thing America’s agriculture sector needs is unnecessary burden that will stifle business. We know our towns, down to the ponds and ditches in our fields, better than any unelected bureaucrat from Washington.

“The EPA should ditch the proposed rule, which will harm farming communities and families.”

Westrom, the Republican candidate in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District, is one of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Gun” candidates in a targeted House race. For more information visit torreywestrom.com.

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Rep. Paul Anderson (12B) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbor,

Twin cities media is finally picking up on the story of too much rain in farm country, and its implications for reduced crop production this year. More heavy rain this past weekend has many wondering when this spate of wetness will end. Reports of up to three inches around Belgrade and over six inches in the Willmar area left much farm land and even parking lots under water. And the forecast is calling for chances of rain every day throughout the rest of this week.

I visited with several farmers in New Munich last weekend and heard about their efforts at putting up hay. One told of chopping haylage nearly all night and getting stuck in wet field conditions several times. He reported having to unhook the wagon from the chopper and pull it out backward. One can imagine the ruts and deep holes left in the field under such conditions.

Time is also running out for those who still have fields left to plant, or those who would like to re-plant areas that have drowned out because of standing water. As we approach the end of June, yields of crops planted this late would probably be greatly reduced. Dairymen and others who raise livestock may still decide to keep planting if they are short of feed supplies for their animals.

Water levels are also rising on area lakes and rivers which could impact resort and campground business. Because the season is so short in Minnesota, owners would like to utilize every weekend and keep their facilities occupied.

The amount of rain received in some areas during the past three weeks has been staggering. Some of the hardest hit areas have received upwards of 10 to 12 inches or even more. The ground hasn’t had a chance to dry out between rain events, which has made field work extremely challenging. There’s an old farming axiom that says too much rain is better than too little; however, I think we’ve reached a point where nearly everyone is saying “enough is enough.”

Sincerely,

Paul

Rep. Paul Anderson (12B) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbor,

With the 2014 legislative session not slated to start until late February, this week was designated for early committee work in St. Paul. Two of the committees I serve on, the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance, along with Housing, had meetings scheduled.

In the Ag. Finance Committee, we heard testimony from two University of Minnesota professors regarding weed resistance to the glyphosate family of chemicals, more commonly known as Round-Up. Farmers have long known that continued use of one particular family of chemicals can give rise to weed resistance, and we are seeing that happening. Changing crop rotations, and using chemicals with different modes of action can help alleviate the problem.

In the Housing committee, we heard testimony on a bill that would require mediation as part of the process when homes are being foreclosed. Minnesota already has a provision that allows counseling for those going through this difficult process, and we were told that nearly 50 percent of those who choose counseling are able to obtain loan modifications that enable them to stay in their homes.

Propane hotline opens

I sent a legislative update last week talking about a propane shortage that is causing widespread problems, including here in our area. Minnesota has joined other states in declaring a state of emergency and a hotline opened Thursday to help citizens. News reports indicate staff fielded more than 80 calls yesterday alone.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce can provide callers with information regarding Energy Assistance Programs, connect people with resources in their home county and more. Call the hotline at 1 (800) 657-3504 between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., or click here to access information online.

I hope you find this information helpful as we try to work through this issue. I will keep you posted as things develop.

Sincerely,

Paul

Rep. Paul Anderson (12B) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbor,

A shortage of propane gas is posing problems for farmers who need dryer gas for their wet corn, and also causing concerns for homeowners who heat their homes with LP.

The good news is experts say this situation should not be a factor in this winter’s heating season. The propane supply is saved first for home heating, then for animal and livestock systems that require heating, followed by grain drying. A new monthly allocation will take place Friday and should be adequate into the future.

The propane shortage was sudden, as cooperatives and other retailers had what they thought was an adequate supply as recently as a couple of weeks ago. Harvest times typically are staggered throughout the Midwest, but the late spring and wet planting season delayed the harvest in places like Indiana and Illinois. By the time those farmers got in the field, crops in states like Minnesota were ready for harvest, creating a spike in propane demand and driving a shortage.

Another factor is the reversal of the Cochin pipeline, which has been reduced to 50 percent of its normal propane capacity. This pipeline originates in western Canada and has a terminal in Benson. Because of that Benson location, it has been a primary source of LP  gas in our part of Minnesota for many years. It is being prepared to transport condensate to the Alberta tar sands area, impacting the amount of propane available locally.

Some co-ops are encouraging people to drive as far as Kansas, Nebraska and North Carolina, where there is a greater supply of propane. Whether the trucks are making longer runs south for product or sitting in line at the terminals, it will take more time per load and trucks will not be able to haul as many loads per day. 

Here is some good news and some steps that are being taken to alleviate the temporary supply shortage:

 

  • ·         The harvest is either wrapping up or making good progress in many areas of southern Minnesota. This will relieve some of the pressure on the demand side.
  • ·         On Oct. 23, Gov. Mark Dayton issued an Executive Order http://mn.gov/governor/images/EO-13-11.pdf that suspends the hours-of-service restrictions for propane truck drivers for 14 days.
  • ·         Terminals and retailers dependent upon supply from the Cochin pipeline will receive a new monthly allocation beginning this Friday.

It appears as if this propane crunch could be alleviated soon. Roger Leider, executive director of the Minnesota Propane Gas Association, indicated supply levels will be adequate to meet demand within a week. Again, the new monthly allocation should relieve the propane shortage.

The Cochin pipeline reversal could lead to supply issues in 2014 and beyond, however. There has been talk of a stakeholder group forming to explore ways to prevent supply shortages, which may or may not involve legislation.

I will keep you posted as this issue develops.

Sincerely,

Paul