Editorial: Mandating change

Stefanie Croley
October 23, 2018
By
By now, nutrient runoff is a term you should be familiar with. More and more, the term – which refers to contamination of water by excess nutrients from drained agricultural land – is popping up in news stories, scientific journals and council meetings.
And by the looks of things, we won't be hearing less about it any time soon.

In my last column in the May edition of Drainage Contractor, I wrote that it was time for the industry to speak up and get involved in the discussion around nutrient runoff and water quality regulations. Everyone – from drainage contractors and farmers to conservation authorities – has a role to play in mitigating the effects of pollution, and until now, most of the efforts have been voluntary.  

But a new regulatory approach in Minnesota is showing mandated methods to protect water is making a difference in water quality. The law now requires Minnesota farmers to install buffer strips – wide strips of hay or other grasses planted along waterways – to reduce runoff and limit the amount of harmful nutrients and pollutant that flow into surrounding bodies of water.

The mandatory program has been successful so far, according to Tom Gile, the buffers and soil loss operations supervisor for the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, in a news article. According to the article (published in the South Dakota Capital Journal, by South Dakota News Watch), aerial photos are taken to gauge compliance, and corrective action notices are mailed out as an initial warning, followed by fines of up to $500 issued monthly or even daily.

Like any law, Gile says this one brings controversy, but so far, no fines have been issued. Two full years after the law's passage, surveys reveal 95 percent compliance with buffer strip guidelines on all waterways, and 99 percent compliance on qualifying lakes, rivers and streams, according to the Capital Journal article.

These results are encouraging, but beg the question: if solutions to minimize nutrient runoff, like buffer strips or bioreactors, were made mandatory in your state, what would the local reaction be like? Would producers be eager to comply and share their passion for land stewardship? Would contractors be willing to step in and help with installation and training?

This issue features innovative ideas, encouraging stories and sage advice to help you fulfil your role in reducing the negative effects of nutrient runoff. As you read through the pages, I hope you are inspired to take action and get involved – you might just find a new area to expand your business.

With this issue we also bid farewell and send our best wishes to our associate publisher, Ed Cosman, as he retires at the end of December. Ed has served Drainage Contractor with many years of expertise in print and digital advertising and marketing, and we wish him many years of happiness in retirement.

Sharon Kauk is moving into the role of national sales manager for our brand, and though she’s new to the industry, she’s no rookie to advertising. Sharon brings many years of advertising sales experience, and she is eager to immerse herself in the industry. You’ll no doubt be meeting her at events this coming winter, so please take the time to give her a warm welcome.

From all of us, I wish you a warm holiday season.

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