Tag Archives: agriculture

Buffer zones, bees, and turkeys in the special session

What’s wrong with the agriculture, environment and natural resources bill? It’s hard to know where to begin. Partly, the problem is the bill is too damn big. Along with the budget items, (mostly) Republican legislators threw in a pile of bad laws that they thought they could get through at the last minute. They figured, wrongly as it turned out, that Governor Dayton would focus only on the education bill and would let them get away with murder in environmental rollbacks. They were wrong.

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Three reasons Dayton should veto the environmental bill

wild and scenic Crow RiverThe Republican-deformed agriculture and environment budget bill attacks Minnesota waters, bees, and the MPCA citizen board. And that’s just the beginning of a long list of problems with the bill. Continue reading

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From bib overalls to hazmat suits

“They had hazmat suits,” the farmer said, “and they sprayed the tires of their truck with disinfectant, too.”

“They” are inspectors checking for avian flu. Coming from all over the United States, the teams travel farm to farm, testing poultry for avian flu. The highly contagious disease has killed more than five million birds — mostly turkeys — in Minnesota and more than 25 million — mostly egg-laying chickens — in Iowa. There is no known treatment or vaccine. Once it hits a flock, the H5N2 virus kills quickly, and kills 90 percent of the birds in those flocks. Continue reading

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Talking turkey — and chickens and avian flu

This spring, avian flu has killed millions of turkeys and chickens in the Upper Midwest. As the country’s turkey champion, Minnesota produces about 46 million turkeys per year. As of May 12, 85 Minnesota flocks in 21 counties have been hit by this bird flu. More than five million Minnesota birds have been affected. This avian flu outbreak has hit Minnesota particularly hard, with 85 of about 133 affected flocks in the state.

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Friday catch-up: Explosive trains, polluted wells, sign rebellion

we buy housesHat tip to Alan Muller for linking to a scary train story: The Omaha World-Herald reports that the Union Pacific Railroad has applied for a permit to haul liquefied natural gas (LNG), which would make it the first railroad to haul this highly combustible product. The proceedings before the Federal Railroad Administration are still secret, but somebody leaked the news. While Union Pacific is headquartered in Omaha, its 435 miles of Minnesota track run through the Twin Cities, as well as Worthington, Albert Lea, Northfield and other southern Minnesota cities. Continue reading

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Ice out — watch the water

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The ice is out across Minnesota, and rivers run higher with snowmelt. Temps are rising, green life poking up out of the dirt, and I saw a bright yellow crocus today. But beneath the softening soil, and beneath the surface of Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, all is not well. Continue reading

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Minnesota’s endangered state butterfly: Millions of Monarchs gone

Minnesota’s state butterfly, the dazzling orange-and-black Monarch, is a treasure that we share with the world during its multi-generation migration between Minnesota and Mexico. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warns that, “Unless we act now to help the Monarch, this amazing animal could disappear in our lifetime.” According to the Washington Post, “what’s happening to monarch butterflies is nothing short of a massacre.” The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning for endangered species protection for the monarch, citing a 90 percent decline in the population over the past 20 years. Continue reading

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Why you should read Bluestem Prairie

Photo by Justin Meissen, published under Creative Commons license.

Photo by Justin Meissen, published under Creative Commons license.

Sally Jo Sorensen calls out all kind of nonsense in her Bluestem Prairie blog, especially in the legislature, and especially on rural issues. As Republicans flex their new majority muscle in the MN legislature, one of their first targets is the Citizen Advisory Board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Sally Jo skewers this vendetta, which is triggered by the one-and-only decision to require a mega-farm to produce an Environmental Impact Statement as part of the permit process. Continue reading

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News Day | Election results / Pop-up shops / Dinosaurs doing battle / Farmland conservation / Pawlenty shooting from the lip

ballot box graphicElection results Easy wins for most incumbents in the Twin Cities. The exceptions: St. Paul school board challenger Jean O’Connell, endorsed by the teachers’ union, was the second-highest vote-getter in the regular school board election, and incumbent Tom Goldstein loses his place on the board. Other winners – Elona Street-Stewart, John Brodrick, Vallay Varro.

In Minneapolis, Ward 4 council member Barb Johnson and Ward 5 council member Don Samuels won the highest number of votes, but not a majority. (Full listing of council races here.) The city’s new Ranked Choice Voting will decide who wins those races, but results won’t be known for a while. Because no federally-approved voting machines were available for the RCV voting, a hand count of ballots will be necessary.

RCV is coming to St. Paul next, as voters there approved the ballot measure adopting Ranked Choice Voting for municipal elections. Minneapolis had one ballot measure, proposing abolition of the Board of Estimate and Taxation – voters said no.

St. Paul results began coming in by 8:30 p.m. and were all in before 11 p.m. Minneapolis results didn’t start coming in until abter 9:30, as ballots were driven to the warehouse, but were all in by 11:30 p.m. Minneapolis voter turnout was 19.5 percent and St. Paul turnout was 21.6 percent.

Official results will take a while, because of necessity for hand-counting under Ranked Choice Voting — TC Daily Planet explains here. Hand counting will begin November 4 at 11 a.m. at the Minneapolis Elections Warehouse, 732A Harding St. NE.

Outside Minnesota

In two closely-watched gubernatorial races, both Virginia and New Jersey elected Republicans, despite strong support for the Democratic candidates by President Barack Obama.

In New York’s 23rd Congressional District, formerly a solid Republican district, Democratic underdog Bill Owens won — with some help from Minnesota Republicans Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty. Bachmann and Pawlenty were among the Republicans who endorsed Conservative candidate Douglas Hoffman over Republican moderate Dede Scozzafava. This weekend, Scozzafava withdrew and endorsed Owens.

In Maine, opponents overturned a law allowing same-sex marriage in a referendum. Across the continent, Washington voters approved Referendum 71, upholding legislation that gives same sex couples legal rights as domestic partners.

Pop-up shops With retail vacancies high, reports the Star Tribune, malls are looking more favorably on “pop-up shops:” short-term leases, often with a focus on the holidays (think Spirit Halloween Superstores) or smaller, local businesses trying to see whether they can make it in the big time.

This year, Toys R’Us has opened 80 temporary stores across the country for the holiday shopping season. Some mall managers, aware of how vacant storefronts look to customers, are aggressively seeking more tenants:

“When you come to Burnsville Center, it looks like we’re 100 percent occupied because when a space goes dark, myself and my associates work hard to find temporary stores,” said Robbin Hahn, the mall’s general manager. Burnsville Center is about 95 percent full, she said.

Dinosaurs doing battle That’s the way Susie Fruncillo, one of the owners of Lake Country Booksellers in White Bear Lake, described the current best-seller price war to MinnPost. Target, Wal-Mart and Amazon.com are offering current best-sellers on-line for about $9, well below the cost of the books. Use of loss leaders may attract more book-buyers to the Big Three dinosaurs,” but it’s also riled up authors, indie booksellers and lots of other people who care about books, reading and writing.

“It doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s best interest to be heading toward a future where it may be impossible for writers to earn a living and where it’s difficult for publishers to exist,” said Martin Schmutterer, an assistant manager at Common Good Books in St. Paul.

Farmland conservation: not so much Millions of acres of fragile farmland, taken out of production and put into the Conservation Reserve Program, is now being returned to production, reports AP. The reason: a cap on farmland in the Conservation Reserve Program, imposed by the 2008 Farm Bill. That means no renewals when farmland’s CRP status runs out, removing 3.4 million acres from the program this fall.

The program pays landowners not to farm easily eroded land and helps cover the cost of establishing ground cover to reduce soil erosion and establish wildlife habitat.

Most of the land losing CRP protection this fall is in Texas, Kansas and Colorado, but AP reports that Minnesota has a total of 1.67 million acres protected under CRP, with 166,519 losing that protection in 2009, 80,259 in 2010, and 128,018 in 2011.

Shooting from the lip Republicans managed to lose New York’s Congressional District 23 race, by giving vocal support to the Conservative candidate over a moderate Republican – and ending up with a Democratic winner. Two of the Republicans involved were Minnesota’s own Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty. Now T-Paw is shooting down another Republican, reports Minnesota Independent, calling for a litmus test to determine who the true Republicans are.

Senator Olympia Snowe, the lone Republican voting for the Senate health care plan in committee, came right back at him, with a defense of moderation.

But even if Pawlenty’s in trouble with Snowe, he can’t come near Michele Bachmann’s latest record-setting gaffe. David Brauer reports in MinnPost that she just got another “Liar, liar, pants on fire” rating from the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact:

For those of us keeping score, this is the seventh time Politifact has checked out a Bachmann claim, and the seventh time it’s been found false. Four of those seven have been rated “pants on fire” for high level of distortion.

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NEWS DAY | Coal loses, from Big Stone to Ashland / MN tops nation in civic participation / Two more reasons to go veggie / Visiting Burma

vote_thumbElections today! Today is the day! For information on where to find your polling place in Minnesota, click here. For information on Ranked Choice Voting in Minneapolis, click here. For articles about specific races, click here.

Coal loses, from Big Stone to Ashland The Star Tribune reports that developers of the $1.6 billion, coal-powered, Big Stone II power plant in South Dakota have abandoned the project. Continue reading

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