Commentary: Don't blame Minnesota farmers for river pollutionAs a society that has made tremendous progress over the years in protecting the environment, it still amazes me that too often we focus on finger pointing in lieu of solutions when tackling a complicated issue. The recent debate over cleaning up Minnesota River is a classic case of this, as we have a coalition of cities taking aim at farmers as the culprit (R-E, May 30).
By: Rep. Rod Hamilton, The Republican Eagle
As a society that has made tremendous progress over the years in protecting the environment, it still amazes me that too often we focus on finger pointing in lieu of solutions when tackling a complicated issue. The recent debate over cleaning up Minnesota River is a classic case of this, as we have a coalition of cities taking aim at farmers as the culprit (R-E, May 30).
Perhaps instead of engaging in a blame game based on nothing more than guesswork and innuendo we should think about having conversations and tapping into common sense.
As a lifelong farmer, my bond with the land is based on that common sense. It’s a no brainer for me. You can’t bite the hand that feeds you. And trust me, our natural resources feed me, my family and countless other Minnesotans who have come to rely on our agricultural food products.
Unfortunately, some believe the answer to increased sediment in Minnesota waterways is to force farmers to participate in the cleanup, saying voluntary efforts are not enough. I don’t need a law or additional oversight to understand the critical nature of conservation.
Farmers rely on their land for their livelihoods and in turn understand better than most the importance of stewardship. They have to ensure their land remains productive and protected for generations to come.
Minnesota farmers have been employing practices for years in support of these goals: reduced tillage, strip tillage or installing terraces and planted buffer strips to control erosion and runoff into streams and rivers.
Protecting our natural resources, our waterways and land, is an investment in our business, for ourselves, our families, and for future generations of farmers.
The fact that we are having this debate over cleaning up our rivers speaks volumes about our collective concern for the environment.
On Earth Day in 1971, the “Keep America Beautiful” public service advertising campaign was launched. A powerful television ad aired featuring a Native American traveling by canoe on a river filled with litter. As he came ashore, a tear rolled down his cheek as he viewed a passenger in a car toss trash out of the window. The voice of actor William Conrad boomed, “People Start Pollution. People Can Stop It.”
In the past 40 years, much has changed. Numerous laws have been enacted to protect our environment.
However, I believe the progress that has been made is not necessarily due to increased regulation and oversight, but changes in attitudes. People can have a tremendous impact in stopping pollution. A heightened sense of awareness exists in our society of the need to protect our natural resources. Each of us has a personal responsibility to preserve this land for future generations
As a lawmaker, I’ll continue to embrace healthy dialogue instead of rhetoric on this issue. As a farmer, I’ll continue what I’ve been doing all my life: nurturing and protecting the land.
State Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, is chairman of the Minnesota House Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Finance Committee.