Minnesota Legislature Just Voted to Take the People Out of Pollution Control [UPDATE]

Justin Meissen

UPDATE: On May 23, Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the omnibus ag, environment, and natural resources finance bill, writing in his veto letter that the bill "undermines decades of environmental protections." The fate of the Citizens' Board will be decided in a special session of the legislature.

While the rest of the Twin Cities slept Monday night, the Minnesota legislature quietly snuffed out local control over pollution from factory farms, industrial waste facilities, and mining.

See also:
Governor Dayton, Democrats Wuss Out to Mining Interests Over Clean Water

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There Are No Swimmable Lakes Left in Southwestern Minnesota

USDA photo by Scott Bauer
Cows and farm runoff have ruined southwestern Minnesota's water quality

There's an 1,800-square-mile area covering the far southwestern corner of Minnesota where no lakes and only a few streams are clean enough to go swimming or fishing.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says polluted runoff from farms coupled with cows trampling shorelines caused the problem, and it will be a difficult one to fix because farmers aren't required to follow most clean water regulations.

See also:
More Farming Across Southeast MN Will Lead to Huge Increase in Polluted Water, Study Says

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Book: Vaporized Pig Brains Are Torturing Austin's Migrant Meatpackers

fleur design

Years have passed since Pablo Ruiz worked as a floor supervisor inside a swine slaughterhouse in Austin, Minnesota. Yet his body remains in constant pain, the result, medical experts say, of inhaling a daily dose of pig brain tissue mist.

According to Ted Genoways, author the new book The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food, Ruiz, was one of the roughly two dozen former workers -- 90 percent of them Hispanic -- at the Spam factory in southern Minnesota, who in 2006 showed symptoms of a bizarre neurological disease that caused body fatigue and extreme pain in the extremities, as well as swelling of the spine and brain.

See also:
Mist of pig brain tissue sickened slaughterhouse workers

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More farming across southeast MN will lead to huge increase in polluted water, study says

Categories: Agriculture

Flickr via bionicteaching

Most of the time, a boom in crop prices is a good thing for a rural area. That's what it's felt like in southeast Minnesota for most of the past decade or so, as increasing prices for grains like soybeans and corn led to record incomes for the state's farmers as recently as a few years ago.

But according to a study released last week from the University of Minnesota, it appears that the recent emphasis on growing those money-making grains may have had a severe unintended consequence -- nitrate chemicals contaminating nearby drinking water sources.

See also:
Minnesota has country's best corn crop in a drought-stricken season, USDA says

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New report finds dangerous levels of arsenic across Minnesota wells

The Center for Public Integrity
Minnesotans are at risk of consuming dangerous levels of arsenic in their food and water, according to weekend report released by the Center for Public Integrity.
Whether there's such a thing as a safe level of arsenic is debatable, though even small amounts of the toxin have been linked to lower IQ scores in children and instances of cancer in adults. At home, researchers found that the concentration of arsenic in an alarming number of groundwater wells exceeded 10 parts per billion -- the ceiling set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Dozens tested positive for more than 50 parts per billion.

See also:
How undercover animal rights activists are winning the Ag-Gag war

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Supreme Court kills case involving MN farmer and his 212 dead cows

Matt Seppings on Flickr
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case of a Minnesota farmer and his 212 dead cows, which might have impacted the way we interact with government employees.

The justices met on April 18 to consider whether Greg Herden of Gully could sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture for negligence in connection to a federal conservation program.

See also:
How undercover animal rights activists are winning the Ag-Gag war

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Supreme Court weighs if MN farmer can sue feds over 212 dead cows

Matt Seppings on Flickr
Greg Herden watched helplessly as the cows on his family farm in Gully, about an hour west of Bemidji, began spontaneously aborting their calves. The young were coming out still-born or near death.

A veterinarian investigated and found that the calves' blood was not coagulating. There was mold in the stomach. And to make matters worse, the adult cows were now sick.

The next year, Herden buried the last of his bovine -- number 212.

"It was a hard time," he says. "How would you like to bury a dead pet every few days?"

His family is suing the U.S. Department Agriculture for negligence, claiming that a grazing specialist inadvertently poisoned some of the fields. The case is up for consideration by the United States Supreme Court.

If the court decides to take it and rules in the Herdens' favor, all those dead cows could change the way the rest of us interact with government employees.

SEE ALSO: 200 dead Wisconsin cows were smote by disease, not biblical prophesy

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Minnesota's GOP reps help pass "partisan, broken" farm bill

Alternative Heat and Congressman Tim Walz
On Thursday, the Republican-run U.S. House passed a farm bill. This should be good news: The all-important package of legislation, which comes up for a vote every five years, expired in September 2012, and has left many in farm country in limbo.

But the House's latest version of the farm bill -- which earned support from Minnesota's three GOP reps, but passed without a single Democratic vote -- has sparked controversy over the future of nutritional assistance programs, or food stamps. It splits off that funding, which has been included in the farm bill since 1973, from the legislation, instead saving it to deal with later.

See Also:
- Klobuchar reminds Senate that "the stakes are high for Minnesota" with farm bill [VIDEO]
- FEATURE: Farming for Federal Dollars: Meet the Minnesotans who receive subsidies for not growing anything
- Mary Franson, Phyllis Kahn introduce bill to legalize industrial hemp production

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The undercover animal cruelty videos that spurred Big Ag's censorship crusade

Categories: Agriculture

Photo courtesy of Mercy for Animals
One of the nearly 3,000 pigs at Country View Family Farms in Fannettsburg, Pennsylvania. The far mis a supplier for Hatfield Quality Meats, which is sold in twelve Northeastern states.
This week's story, "The Ag Gag War," goes behind the scenes of the guerilla fight between animal rights groups and Big Agriculture.

For years organizations like the Humane Society and Mercy for Animals have being going undercover at America's largest farms, using hidden cameras to show exactly how our food is produced. The footage hasn't been pretty.

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Mary Franson, Phyllis Kahn introduce bill to legalize industrial hemp production

hemp image via Wikimedia Commons
Yesterday, Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) and Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) teamed up to introduce a bill that would develop and regulate industrial hemp production in Minnesota.

As it stands now, hemp -- marijuana's big, non-psychoactive sister  -- is banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a controlled substance. But some states, notably North Dakota, have thumbed their noses at the feds and passed laws to license an industry, though they (mostly) continue to wait for a green light to actually grow the stuff.

If Franson and Kahn get their way, Minnesota will be next.

See Also:
- Agriculture: Hemp Jive
- From the archives: High Expectations: Paranoia causes the Legislature to do an about-face on industrial hemp production
- Mary Franson wins recount in belated MNGOP election night success story

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