MN Dept. of Ag releases proposed groundwater protection rule

Minnesota Department of Agriculture

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) today released the proposed Groundwater Protection Rule (GPR) to the public and announced the rule will be published in the State Register on April 30. An 80-day public comment period on the rule will follow.

The goal of the Groundwater Protection Rule is to work with local farmers to reduce elevated nitrate levels in groundwater and ensure Minnesota residents have clean, safe, and reliable drinking water supplies. Nitrate is one of the most common contaminants in Minnesota’s groundwater; elevated nitrate levels in drinking water can pose serious health concerns for humans. The proposed rule, which is based on the input of the farmers and landowners who the rule would apply to, would regulate the use of nitrogen fertilizer in areas of the state where soils are prone to leaching and where drinking water supplies are threatened.

“When I traveled the state last summer to hear farmers’ concerns, I promised the Groundwater Protection Rule would have a healthy dose of common sense. I think we have achieved that,” said Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “I encourage anyone with interest in the rule to provide their feedback through the rulemaking process. In an effort to ensure all stakeholders have the opportunity to have their voices heard, we have extended the traditional 30-day public comment period by 50 days and will hold an 80-day public comment period.”

The MDA informally published a draft of the Groundwater Protection Rule in the summer of 2017, and provided an opportunity for public comment to help shape the proposed rule. The MDA received more than 820 written comments regarding the rule, and over 1,000 farmers, landowners and other Minnesotans attended a total of 17 public meetings in Chatfield, Fairmont, Farmington, Hawley, Marshall, McIntosh, Roseau, St. Cloud, St. Paul, Wadena, and Warren. Additional public comments were received in Bemidji, Crookston, Mankato, Marshall, Rochester, and St. Cloud as part of the Governor’s Water Town Hall Meetings.

Starting April 30, public comments on the Groundwater Protection Rule can be made on the Office of Administrative Hearings website at www.mn.gov/oah.

Timeline for Groundwater Protection Rulemaking

The publication of the proposed rule triggers a formal comment period during which anyone can submit comments on the proposed rule to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

• April 30 – The State Register publishes the proposed Groundwater Protection Rule and Statement of Need and Reasonableness.

• April 30 – July 26 – Time period for submitting comments on the rule to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

• May/June 2018 – The Department of Agriculture holds information sessions on the draft Groundwater Protection Rule and how to participate in the rulemaking process. (Attendance at an information session does not count as providing input on the proposed rule; all input must be submitted to the Office of Administrative Hearings.)

• Fall 2018 – The Office of Administrative Hearings reviews the comments and drafts a report approving, approving in part, or disapproving the proposed rule.

• December 2018 – The Department of Agriculture submits the final Groundwater Protection Rule to the Governor for signature.

The Groundwater Protection Rule is part of the state’s overall Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP) which was developed with broad stakeholder input over a five year period and implemented in 2015. More information on the rule and the NFMP is available at www.mda.state.mn.us/nfr.