Gas, Grass & Biomass

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As goes ethanol, so goes our landscape? On Sept. 6, the USDA’s chief economist announced that the U.S. would need 90 million acres of corn by 2010 to meet the burgeoning demand for ethanol while maintaining existing markets for exports and animal feed. That’s 10 million more acres than what farmers have been planting in recent years. Where will that extra corn come from? Well, 7 million acres could be raised on land that is currently covered in grass and other perennial plants as part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), said the economist, Keith Collins. Such thinking makes a couple of troubling, and wrong, assumptions. (more…)

Statewide Conservation Plan Comment Opportunity

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The 2006 legislature allocated money for the creation of a “Comprehensive Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan.”  To facilitate who will get to create this plan, a Request for Proposals (RFP) has been drafted by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).  They are taking public comments on the draft RFP for the next two weeks and they welcome your input.  Details below. (more…)

Great Lakes Town Hall

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MEP’s Northeast Program Coordinator Julie O’Leary is a guest author this week on the Great Lakes Town Hall website (http://www.greatlakestownhall.org/), a space on the web dedicated to facilitating public discussions from people around the Great Lakes.  Julie has begun her week of postings with an interesting look at Minnesota’s relationship to the largest lake in the world.

This link will take you to her first posting.

 

Keeping Farming’s Natural & Economic Wealth at Home

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It’s harvest time—during the next several weeks hundreds of millions of dollars worth of corn and soybeans will be extracted from Minnesota’s rich soil. Unfortunately, little of that wealth stays in our rural communities. It’s sucked out of these regions by a food and farm economy that exports raw commodities and imports finished products from hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away. (more…)

Conservation Legacy Council

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Governor Pawlenty, by Executive Order, has created a new taskforce charged with providing the Governor with recommendations on “matters relating to the development of a sustainable governance and funding model which will create a lasting legacy for the conservation, protection and enhancement of the state’s natural resources and which will establish Minnesota as the nation’s leading conservation state.”  The application process to be on this council is now open, with details below. (more…)

Governor Pawlenty on environmental funding

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In today’s edition of the Outdoor News, reporter Joe Albert interviews Governor Tim Pawlenty and asks a series of questions regarding our state’s natural resources.  When asked about Minnesota’s 30-year low in funding for the environment, the Governor provided a response that I think needs more exploring.
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Cast a Mealtime Ballot for Conservation

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September is here, providing Minnesotans perhaps the best opportunity of the year to support good stewardship of the land. This is the time of the growing season when local farms producing fruits and vegetables are peaking with delicious results. Fall is when many farms that produce pork, beef and chickens using sustainable methods are doing their final slaughtering of the year. This is also the time when grass-based dairy producers are stockpiling forage so they can keep consumers supplied with dairy products during the frozen months.

If you are someone who cares about clean air and water, as well as wildlife habitat, what goes on in farm country all year ’round should be of critical interest to you. Wildlife refuges, forest preserves and wilderness areas provide a lot of ecological benefits, but they can’t do it alone. Farmers and ranchers own and manage 50 percent of the land in the U.S. In Minnesota, farmland makes up more than half of our landscape. As the book The Farm as Natural Habitat points out, in many areas what happens on working farmland has profound impacts on the quality of the environment. In effect, stewardship of 50 percent of our nation’s land is in the hands of less than 2 percent of our citizens. But through our food purchasing decisions, the other 98 percent of us can have a significant say in how that land is taken care of. (more…)

First meeting of the LCCMR

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Today was the formative meeting of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).  This group is the current compromise rising out of the last legislative session charged with spending money from the Environmental Trust Fund (which I believe currently only receives money from lottery sales).  Some folks think only citizens should by the ones allocating this money; legislators, who have final say over the spending, have never been to keen to that idea though.  So now we have the LCCMR consisting of seven citizens, five State Representatives, and five State Senators.   There is approximately $22 million to be spent in the next 8 months. 
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Ads on WCCO Don’t Pass the ‘Reality’ Test

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If you’ve spent any time watching WCCO-TV in recent months, you’ve probably seen the series of ads sponsored by the Minnesota Farm and Food Coalition. These ads, which feature colorful rural photos and music that pulls at the heartstrings, make the argument that the state’s economy will collapse unless we allow significant expansion of large-scale livestock operations—otherwise known as factory farms or CAFOs. The ads then go on to blame “anti-livestock activist groups” for the livestock industry’s financial troubles.

Well, serious questions about the accuracy, legality and even ethical basis of these ads have been raised in recent weeks. (more…)