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July 28th, 2020

Minnesotans Report Receiving Mystery Seeds Appearing to Come from China

Information below is directly from the Minnesota Department of Ag:

St. Paul MN: The Minnestoa Departmnent of Ag (MDA) has been receiving reports of residents receiving unsolicited packages of seeds appearing to come from China. Officials in other states including Louisianna, Utah, Virgina and Washington have reported similar situations. Any Minnesotan receiving a package of seeds they did not order should not plant the seeds and contact the MDA. "We're uncertain what these seeds may be and why people are receiving these unsoliciated packages," said Denise Thiede, MDA's Seed Unit Supervisor. "until we know more, we encourage people to contact us because of the risk they may pose to Minnesota Agriculture and our natural landscapes."

Minnesototans should do the following if they have received unsolicited packages of Seeds:
1.) Do not throw away the package
2.) Do not plant the seeds.
3.) Contact Arrest the Pest Line at 1-888-545-6684 or and provide your name, contact information and the date the package was received.
Officals will coordinate shipping the packaging and contents to the MDA Seed Program. The MDA is working with the United State Department of Agriculture's smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance Program on Identification and destruction of the seeds.

April 2019 (Article written by Brett Blocker in Lake Area Review)

County bristling with buffer strips after new law
By Brett Blocker

As farmers throughout the state prepare for the busy spring season, they do so under the regulations of a recently adopted law designed to curb the harmful effects of runoff.  As of Nov. 1, 2018, landowners and farmers are required to place buffer strips on  parcels of land containing public ditches, similar to the 2017 law requiring that they place buffer strips in parcels near public waters. While Kandiyohi County is virtually 100 percent compliant in placing buffer strips along public waters, there are still areas near public ditches in which landowners are working toward implementing  buffer strips.  Before the law was implemented, said Kandiyohi County Soil and Water Conservation District Technician Ellie Dittes, “we were at 99-percent compliance along public waters, and about 70-percent compliance with county ditches.”Regarding those ditches, she said, “the rate of compliance has been going up since [the law was implemented]. I’m estimating we’re between 75 to 90-percent compliant.” However, she notes that an exact figure has yet to be determined. “We’re in a really good place right now,” Kandiyohi County Buffer Compliance Technician Angelica Hopp said. “I hesitate to give an exact number on compliance, but we’re continuing to work with landowners to get the required buffer areas in place.”Specifically, the law requires a buffer strip averaging 50 feet in width on any parcel that includes public water and 16.5 feet in width on parcels including public ditches.

Since its initial passing, the requirement has been a source of contention among some farm and landowners as many are required to install and maintain the buffer strips at their own expense and were not or have not been compensated for acres taken out of production.However, others support the law, viewing it is a necessary measure to minimize damage to the environment.Fourth-generation New London farmer Phil Hatlestad is one such supporter. Hatlestad began installing buffer strips on his corn and soybean farm roughly 17 years ago, long before the law was enacted. Of the 900 acres of land he and his family own, Hatlestad has designated 180 acres as CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land, and the equivalent of 40 acres as buffer strips along public water ways and public ditches. For his conservation-focused farming techniques – also including no-till and minimum tilling soy and corn practices – Hatlestad received Kandiyohi County Soil & Water District’s 2013 Outstanding Conservationist Award.  Though he notes there can be an economic cost to farmers being forced to give up portions of their land to meet the law’s requirements, buffer strips, he said, are a means by which he can reduce his environmental footprint. “It’s almost an obligation that you don’t allow unnecessary pollution to come off your land; whether or not it’s a monetary benefit that might be pushing it. It’s more of a quality of life issue.”Although it can take years to begin seeing benefits of buffer strips in newly seeded areas, immediate results, he said, include a boost to local wildlife.“We’re starting to see a lot more pheasants, for one thing, and just wildlife in general. In our case, the buffer strips are in areas that used to be wetlands. [...] And with the CRP areas that have been seeded with switch grass, we’re noticing the birds are really seeming to like those.” Unlike the buffer strip law, CRP land is a voluntary decision allowing landowners to essentially “rent” a portion of their land to be devoted toward wildlife conservation and native prairie grasses.  While both CRP land and buffer strips are designed to improve the quality of the environment, buffer strips primarily function as a means to filter water and maintain soil quality. 

Composed of perennial vegetation, buffer strips are a swath of natural grasses and foliage that filter nitrates, phosphorous and sediments from water runoff before trickling into ditches, streams and rivers.  According to Hopp, the strips also reduce erosion and curb detrimental soils and pollutants from traveling downstream. “An additional benefit is that the side slopes of the ditches will remain intact once they have vegetation,” she said. That, hopefully, will reduce the need for ditches having to be cleaned of soil and soil erosion less frequently in the future.“Another thing I’ve tried to express too, is that we, in Minnesota, are now demonstrating that we are doing something to correct our own issues and hopefully states downstream will recognize that.”

Peg Furshong, Director of Minnesota environmental organization Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) also stresses the importance of water health and the effects of downstream contamination. Rather than try to rid farmland of water, she said, efforts should be made to conserve and maintain the quality of our water.“In the end, regardless of what we do, mother nature always wins,” she said. “There’s going to be a time, regardless of whether you’re living in the metro, or a rural area, in California or New Mexico, that we’re going to be paying higher costs for water, and it’s going to be a rude awakening. We shouldn’t be so quick to get water off the land, and should think of capturing and saving it.”  However, Furshong, as well as buffer compliance technician Angelica Hopp agree that farmers receive a disproportionate amount of blame in areas with poor water quality and, rather, maintaining a healthy environment requires a collective effort from communities as a whole.“It’s easy to point the finger,” she said, “but there’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of shared responsibility.”
“I feel like farmers are not given the credit for the good things they do, and many things end up being blamed on them,” said Hopp. “We all have a hand in the environment and we can work to make things better.”


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