Friday, June 14, 2013

Seeds of change?

photo of prairie wildflowers
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for visiting. I'm not sure what it is about prairies that continues to draw my attention and affection, but they do. Broad horizons and sweeping vistas (to use cliched phrases) are natural to those of us raised at oceanside, plus, there are few flowers blooming on the ocean's expanse. Native prairies, as far as I know, contribute little in the way of water pollutants and they serve as carbon sinks. These qualities will become increasingly important as we adapt and adjust to climate change, try to reduce the amount of green house gases we discharge, and, reduce our impacts on the quality of the lakes and streams of which My Minnesota is so justly proud. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been told by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to start setting lower limits on the permitted phosphorous discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants. This is the kind of action that would usually have me saying "about time." Not this time. I'm not in favor of pollution. I am in favor of accountability and picking low-hanging fruit. Most (about 60%) phosphorous comes from stormwater runoff.  Stormwater runoff phosphorous comes largely from agricultural fields. Unfortunately, agricultural fields aren't owned very much any more by family farms. They're corporate owned and operated, often by tenant farmers (today's version of sharecroppers). Look up a former agriculture secretary's advice to "get big or get out." We've done that and then some. As far as I'm concerned, a corporate person should be held to the same accountabilty standard as a local government. How much of the soy beans and field corn produced these days goes to feed Americans. And if we're using corn to produce on ethanol, does it make sense to trade increased water pollution for reduced air pollution? I'm glad that my friends at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy were successful at pushing EPA to lean on MPCA to set stricter limits in discharge permits. I just think it would make more sense if we also had discharge limits for tiled fields. Instead, we're all happy and giggly that Minnesota is undertaking a study of voluntary reduction in agricultural runoff pollution. About time. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.