The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has an excellent blog post on this subject - check it out here: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/2018-midterm-election/. The change in leadership in the House will definitely affect the Farm Bill, both in content and timing.
LWV UMRR thanks NSAC for their excellent reporting on this issue, and for their leadership in working for a strong conservation focus in the Farm Bill!
Here is some added speculation on how things may turn out, from Reuters news agency:
Stalled farm bill could move fast after House win: senior Democratic lawmaker: “Congress may swiftly resolve a drawn-out impasse on the U.S. Farm Bill now that Democrats are poised to retake control of the legislative body, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee said on Wednesday. Collin Peterson, ranking member and presumptive new chair of committee, said passing the crucial agricultural legislation was going to be his top priority, with a deal possible as soon as next week during the lame-duck session. “That’s going to be the number one goal,” he told reporters on a conference call. “My sense is this is going to get worked out (in the lame-duck session).” The Farm Bill provides funding for an array of programs important to farmers - a crucial constituency for Republican President Donald Trump - including crop subsidies and rural development. But the latest bill, passed in 2014, expired on Sept.30 after talks over its replacement broke down. At issue has been a provision in the new draft of the bill that would impose stricter work requirements for recipients of food stamps. The Republican-led House of Representatives passed the $867 billion bill in June with the tougher requirements, over the objections of Democrats. The Senate, meanwhile, passed its own bipartisan version that excluded the requirements. Now that the Democrats have gained control of the House in Tuesday’s elections, the deadlock could be resolved, Peterson said. “Most of the ideas are out there and drafted. It is a matter of putting them together. If that could get resolved this week, then we’d have a bill ready by next week,” he said. He added that he has held talks about the issue with other Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, seen as a front runner to become House Speaker. “There’s no indication or idea on the Democrat side in the House that we would like to delay this thing,” he said. Food stamps are used by more than 40 million Americans, or about 12 percent of the total U.S. population, and the program’s inclusion in the Farm Bill has long been used as a way to get support from Democrats who represent urban districts.”
[Reuters, 11/8/18] https://goo.gl/wnBYRs
Monday, December 3
Coralville Public Library - Room A
1401 5th St, Coralville, IA 52241
Mike Delaney, Izaak Walton League Upper Mississippi River Initiative Field Organizer
Lonni McCauley, League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region Action Chair
1:00 - Gather at the Library for light refreshments
1:25 – Introductions
1:30 – Speakers
2:15 – Audience questions and discussion
2:30 – Adjourn
Throughout the Midwest, absentee landownership of farm land is common. In some places, more than half the farmland is rented. The management of this land is critical - land owners must work with their renters to develop contracts that reward good stewardship and build soil health. How should these discussions be framed? How can the renter protect both the rented land and his bottom line? What will be the farming legacy of these rented lands?
The Izaak Walton League (aka "the Ikes") received a grant from the McKnight Foundation and is developing workshops to provide landowners with this information. The LWV UMRR is working with the Ikes in our four-state area, with a goal of finding member Leagues to work with local Ike chapters put on these workshops throughout the watershed. Both organizations extend the invitation to this meeting in Coralville so we can meet each other and set up the groundwork for local workshop planning.
The Coralville Public Library is close to I-80 just northeast of Iowa City. It offers free parking and a large, comfortable room for our use. Click Upcoming Events for a printable flyer you can use to share the information with others. We also have made this an event on Facebook - like us and help spread the word! Here's a map - see you in Coralville!
Post contributed by Lonni McCauley, LWV UMRR Action Chair
In 2017, the state of Wisconsin agreed to a $4 billion package of incentives to bring development to Mt. Pleasant that would serve as the North American manufacturing hub for the Taiwanese company, Foxconn. At the time of the initial agreement, this plant was to employ 13,000 people to make large LCD screens. Since that time, there have been changes to the plans and the scale may not be as grand as previously planned. Further developments from Foxconn indicate instead of the promised Generation 10.5 plant, Foxconn now says it will build a much smaller Gen 6 plant, which would require one-third of the original investment.
Mt. Pleasant is in southeastern Wisconsin, near Racine. Although it’s only six miles from Lake Michigan, the plant site is located in the headwaters of the Des Plaines River watershed. The Des Plaines River flows south into Illinois, feeding into the Chicago Ship Canal and then the Illinois River and eventually the Mississippi River – read more about the Des Plaines River here.
In addition to financial incentives, the state promised to make the permitting process less burdensome for Foxconn. The plant was approved by the Wisconsin DNR without an environmental impact statement. Additional exceptions from air, water and wetland permitting requirements were granted to the plant to expedite construction. Wisconsin DNR also granted permission to the city of Racine to use Lake Michigan water for this industrial development in violation of the Great Lakes Compact. Ground was broken in June, 2018, at a ceremony attended by President Trump. Construction is now ongoing.
Because of the environmental give-aways and concerns over the use of Lake Michigan water for industrial development outside the Lake Michigan watershed, this project was opposed by LWV Wisconsin, seven other Wisconsin Leagues, LWV Upper Mississippi River Region, and other organizations in states surrounding Lake Michigan. The LWV UMRR blog has a previous articles on this topic, here and here.
UMRR passed a resolution in June 2018, opposing the water diversion based on the Great Lakes Compact which states, in part, that water cannot be diverted from the Great Lakes basin and specifically not for uses other than personal consumption. The resolution specially states that this action would cause a precedent that would be hard to overcome in the future. Further, there is cause for concern that the plant’s chemicals will leach into watersheds flowing to the Mississippi River.
The reason for opposition rests in its environmental impact. The proposed plan would draw up to 7 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan daily for operations. That, and the impact that chemicals associated with the manufacturing process draining into surrounding watersheds would cause led to calls for a legal brief to halt the manufacturing plan. Recent developments see the legal brief, which is led by the LWV Wisconsin, stalled due to the lack of an attorney willing to donate time to this suit. A request to file a brief is due November 15. We will update you through this blog as we progress in these endeavors.
Some information used in this post has come from a recent article on The Verge – read the full article here. For more information on the Great Lakes Compact, visit the website of the Great Lakes Commission here.
Farm Bill Update from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Blog
With the 2014 Farm Bill now expired without an extension in place, all eyes are now on the congressional leaders heading up the Farm Bill Conference Committee. The Committee leaders, which include Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Pat Roberts (R-KS), Ranking Member Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Mike Conaway (R-TX), Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), are currently working behind the scenes in an attempt to negotiate a new bill by the end of the year.
Negotiations have proven difficult because of the substantive differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate bill, for example, was approved with broad bipartisan support, while the House only narrowly passed along partisan lines after initially failing on the House floor. The differences between the two draft bills can be found across nearly all twelve of the farm bill’s titles, including the conservation title.
Rye cover crops in Harford County Maryland. Cover crops are among the conservation practices supported by CSP. Photo credit: Edwin Remsberg, USDA.
Within the conservation title, the biggest split is on the future of the farm bill’s working lands conservation programs: the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program(EQIP). In the Senate bill, both major working lands programs are kept whole, and important policy improvements are made to each that increase access and environmental benefits. The bill also cuts funding for each program by equal amounts to help pay for a needed funding increase of agricultural conservation easements.
The House bill took a much different approach. The House proposes to eliminate our nation’s only comprehensive working lands conservation program, CSP, entirely. This elimination is justified by the claim that the House bill would transfer the key components of CSP to EQIP, along with a portion of CSP funding – a myth we refute in more detail below. While the House bill does transfer some CSP funding, it still cuts $5 billion in total conservation funding. The proposed elimination of CSP would also reduce agricultural sustainability and cut working lands funding from a large number of key agricultural states, denying farmers and ranchers access to comprehensive conservation support.
Please visit the NSAC blog to read more on the CSP and what's at stake in these negotiations!
Changing practices and implementing pollution controls can be expensive. The benefits of these measures are broad, but the cost is often borne by a limited number of parties. How can this cost be shared across the watershed that benefits from the changes? The Great Lakes Commission is testing a market-based approach in the Western Lake Erie basin* – stewardship credits.
“Many organizations and individuals are concerned about the health of Lake Erie. Harmful algal blooms have, in recent years, impacted local water supplies and upset the significant tourism economy. Stewardship credits are generated by agricultural producers who implement conservation practices to reduce the amount of nutrients (including phosphorus) leaving their fields and entering nearby waterways. The amount of nutrients reduced is translated into “credits” that can be purchased by “stewards.” Dollars invested in the purchase of stewardship credits pays for farmers’ efforts to reduce phosphorus contributions to waterways that flow into the Western Lake Erie Basin. Revenue from the sale of stewardship credits allows farmers to continue or increase those conservation efforts in the face of decreasing farm revenues. Stewards that buy credits can feel good knowing they are helping to improve water quality in Lake Erie.” source - Great Lakes Commission factsheet “How the Erie P Market Works for Stewardship”
The market for stewardship credits is just opening - the first purchase by an individual was made by LWV Upper Mississippi River Region’s chair, Gretchen Sabel, for her grandson Isaac’s eight birthday. Isaac lives with his family in the Sandusky River Basin in northwest Ohio, and will benefit from cleaner water as he grows up. Of course, an organization purchasing a large block of credits would have a lot more impact than this single purchase. You can learn more on the Great Lakes Commission’s Lake Erie P Credits page here and purchase credits directly by clicking here.
How do these stewardship credits work? This is a Credit Calculation Example Scenario that the Great Lakes Commission provides in the Framework for Water Quality Trading in the Western Lake Erie Basin (see full document here):
“Farmer Brown lives in Defiance County, Ohio where he owns and operates a 100-acre corn and soy bean farm. After hearing about the newly introduced Erie P Market, Farmer Brown decides to improve his field management practices and make some extra money. Working with the local conservation district, he designs and implements a conservation plan that includes: (1) no-till (2) 4R nutrient management (3) the installation of a filter strip along the down-slope boundary of his property, and (4) planting 50-acres of cover crops. Using regional climate data, the results of his Mehlich 3 Phosphorus tests, and other detailed knowledge of his farm’s characteristics, Farmer Brown calculates his Credits to be traded on the Erie P Market as follows:
As you can see, the purchase of Lake Erie P Stewardship Credits helps farmers directly implement changes to reduce the loss of phosphorus from their fields. By increasing the pool of capital available to make changes, groups and individuals can help be part of the pollution solution!
*Map of Western Lake Erie basin from Great Lakes Commission website:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
On October 1, LWV Upper Mississippi River Region will host a discussion with leaders from LWV Jo Daviess County. We will talk about what they have accomplished in the Galena River watershed, and what we, as community leaders, can do throughout the Upper Mississippi Watershed. The public is invited to join us - we will gather at the Upper Mississippi National Refuge Visitor Center at N 5727 Co Rd Z in Onalaska, Wisconsin (10 miles north of La Crosse) at 12:30 for light refreshments, the discussion will start at 1pm. Additionally, this post on the LWV UMRR blog has info on related events in the area. Here's a link to our Facebook event - feel free to share it!
State officials are seeking public comment on a draft list of five water quality standards topics proposed as priorities for protecting Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers. Also under consideration is the development of standards for certain emerging contaminants that may need to be monitored and controlled to protect people and the environment.
Stakeholders are invited to comment on DNR’s draft priority list from August 28 to October 5, 2018. The draft report of the priorities, which includes the list and topic descriptions, is available on the DNR website here or go to the http://dnr.wi.gov and type in the search words “triennial standards review.” Comments on the triennial standards review process should be directed to Marcia Willhite by calling (608) 267-7425, e-mailing email@example.com, or mailing to Wisconsin DNR WT/3, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.
A public hearing will be held on September 21, 2018 from 10:00 to 11:00 AM. This hearing is for citizens to comment on or ask questions about the topics presented. Anyone who would like to participate is invited to join online through a webinar using the link posted on the DNR’s triennial standards review Web page, or in person at the DNR’s Madison office at 101 S. Webster St., Madison, in Room G27 after signing in at the visitor’s desk.
Text for this post was extracted from an August 30 email from Midwest Environmental Advocates.
Whew! There are lots of things happening this fall in this beautiful stretch of the Mississippi! Join LWV UMRR as we build a partnership for action with our area Leagues and local chapters of the Izaak Walton League.
On September 26, LWV UMRR Chair, Gretchen Sabel, and Vice-Chair, Lonni McCauley, will meet with principals of the Izaak Walton League's Upper Mississippi River Initiative to discuss how our two organizations can work together on our common goal of protecting and enhancing the Upper Mississippi.
This meeting will happen in the afternoon, and then in the evening, the public is invited to come hear David Zenter from the Ikes and Gretchen Sabel talk about the work of each organization and how we see this blossoming partnership going in the future. The venue is Buck's Bar and Grill Minneiska, Minnesota, which is situated between Winona and Wabasha, on the Mississippi,.
The program starts at 6:30 pm with a short meeting of the local Izaak Walton Chapter, follwed by the presentations. All are invited to join us! Buck's Bar and Grill is at 206 Bennett Ave, Minneiska, MN 55910 Fun note - Buck's is also the city's official meeting place, recycling center and bomb shelter. 'A place for the community': Buck's Bar in Minneiska serves as a bomb shelter, recycling center and card hall
Monday, October 1, the LWV UMRR Board will meet on the other side of the river in Onalaska, Wisconsin. The Board will meet from 9:30 to 11:30, and then we'll share lunch and discuss what local groups can do to support change and improvement in the Upper Mississippi. We will focus on the work that LWV Jo Daviess County has initiated, and now is involving the whole community in, in the Galena River Watershed. LWV members from local Leagues are invited to join us for the Board meeting, and the public will be invited to the afternoon talk; the agenda and related materialsl will be posted on our Upcoming Events page by September 25. We will be done by 2pm. The meeting will held at the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge Onalaska Visitor Center.
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region is working with LWV Wisconsin and LWV Lake Michigan to question the proposed use of Lake Michigan water for an industrial development outside the Lake Michigan watershed. A recent post on this blog provides more background - click here.
Here is the most recent update on that project, from LWV Wisconsin:
Racine Diversion Challenge AdvancesLast week, the legal challenge to the City of Racine’s plan to divert Great Lakes water to the Foxconn industrial complex advanced. A pre-hearing conference is set for September 12 before an Administrative Law Judge.
The petitioners contend that the Wisconsin DNR’s approval of Racine’s request for a Great Lakes water diversion for the Foxconn development violates the Great Lakes Compact, an interstate agreement enacted to protect this economic and cultural resource. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is one of six organizations appealing the diversion permit issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The Compact strictly requires diversions of Great Lakes water be limited to public, largely residential, uses. Racine’s attempt to divert 7 million gallons per day of Lake Michigan water west of the Great Lakes Basin divide to serve the solely private industrial uses of Foxconn violates this rule.
The League believes that the Great Lakes Compact, signed into law in by President G.W. Bush on October 3, 2008, significantly supports the long standing League positions of an "environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest," and that policies must consider the "environmental, ... and economic impacts of proposed plans and actions." Read more at the LWVWI website.
In Minnesota, LWV UMRR Action Chair Lonni McCauley has reached out to the Governor's office and the Minnesota DNR to urge Minnesota to engage on this issue through the Great Lakes Compact. We will provide updates here as things progress.
Here’s an interesting question – once water ends up in the wastewater plant, what next? Most of the time, the water is cleaned up and discharged back to the environment. Fresh water is taken from the environment for the next use. Each time the water is used, it’s changed… made dirty and cleaned again, heated and then cooled, contaminated and then disinfected. What would happen if the used water is just… reused? What could it be used for? Are there uses for treated wastewater that will provide economic benefit?
That’s what’s happening in Mankato, Minnesota. In a story on Minnesota Public Radio four years ago (Aug 5, 2014), environmental reporter Elizabeth Dunbar took a look at the south-central Minnesota city of Mankato, and how their treated wastewater is being used as cooling water in a then-new power plant.
Reuse of both wastewater and stormwater for irrigation is growing in use in Minnesota as well – this recent report from the Minnesota Department of Health not only documents current projects but recommends criteria for reuse and how to identify and manage human risk. There is a large section of this report that provides benchmarking with other states’ rules. It is an excellent resource for those looking for resources for projects like this.
A new project now being considered in the Twin Cities would use treated wastewater in a new ethanol plant using garbage as the feed stock for ethanol production. Corn is the most common feed stock for ethanol; according to an article in Scientific American, about 40% of the corn grown in the Midwest goes to ethanol production.
The company proposing the garbage-to-ethanol project is the Canadian firm, Enerkem, in partnership with local firm SKB Environmental, expressed interest in using reclaimed water at its proposed waste-to-biofuel facility in Inver Grove Heights. This innovative project uses a ready resource in the area, garbage, and will convert it to ethanol for use in automotive fuel.
To do this, the plant also requires 1.6 million gallons of water PER DAY, which is a lot of water! They are considering using the water treated in the City of Farmington’s wastewater plant. Additional treatment would be needed, but by using this source they will eliminate the need for drilling wells or using surface water for this plant. This story from the St. Paul Pioneer Press provides a good overview of this project, and this more recent article from the Metropolitan Council gives more detail of the next steps of the project. We will follow this in our blog, follow us for more details as the project progresses.
Many thanks to Britta Dornfeld, Outreach Assistant for the Coon Creek Watershed District in Blaine, Minnesota, for her initial research on this article!
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||