The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is in the process of developing a Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule (Rule). The purpose of the Rule is to minimize potential sources of nitrate pollution in the state’s groundwater and to protect our drinking water. The Rule presented here is a draft and may change based on public input. The Rule is expected to be adopted in the fall of 2018.
The Rule is based on the Minnesota Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan which recommends steps for the prevention and minimization of the impacts of nitrogen fertilizer on groundwater, and emphasizes involving the local agricultural community in problem-solving for local groundwater concerns.
Why is nitrate a concern?
Nitrate-nitrogen (nitrate) is one of the most common contaminants in Minnesota’s groundwater. The majority of Minnesota households have access to safe drinking water supplies. However, in areas vulnerable to groundwater contamination some public and private wells may have high nitrate levels. Too much nitrate in drinking water can pose serious health concerns for humans. See Minnesota Department of Health for more information.
The rulemaking process involves reviews by the governor, public comment periods and steps for public notification. The MDA recently held a public comment period from June 7 – August 25, 2017. Additional information on the rulemaking process and a copy of the presentation offered at the statewide Listening Sessions are available. The MDA is currently reviewing the comments received.
A CD of all comments received during the 2017 comment period is available upon request. Please contact Larry Gunderson at email@example.com to request a CD.
The Rule is based on the nitrogen fertilizer best management practices (BMPs) developed by the University of Minnesota. Use of nitrogen fertilizer BMPs can minimize the loss of nitrogen in the environment. The Rule is designed to involve local farmers and agronomists in adopting and promoting BMPs and other alternative management tools that can reduce nitrate in groundwater.
The Rule contains two parts. Each part contains separate criteria and requirements. Depending on a farm’s location, the Rule may apply in one part, both parts, or not at all.
- Part 1: Fall and frozen soil fertilizer restrictionIf a farm is located in a vulnerable groundwater area, nitrogen fertilizer application in the fall and on frozen soils will be restricted. Soil hydrology and geology information will be used to identify vulnerable groundwater areas.
- Part 2: Follow nitrogen fertilizer BMPsThe MDA and the Minnesota Department of Health extensively monitor both private and public drinking water wells for nitrate. If a farm is located in an area that has high concentrations of nitrate in groundwater, the Rule lays out a process for mitigation. Mitigation is the action of reducing the severity of a problem. The Rule proposes four mitigation levels with increasing restrictions. Use of nitrogen fertilizer BMPs and alternative practices are key components of Part 2 of the Rule.
- Incorporation by Reference
- Complete Draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule Language (PDF: 694 KB / 27 pages)