Following last Thursday’s announcement by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that the state agency would be preparing an environment assessment worksheet (EAW) on pineland-to-potato fields, potato industry R. D. Offutt has been straining to frame the situation in as positive light as possible.
For instance, on Friday afternoon at 4:52 p.m., R.D. Offutt Communications posted a news brief on the company’s website, Byron Township Study Benefits Community and State Entities:
R.D. Offutt Company is committed to preserving ground water quality in the communities where we farm. In fact, we are eagerly and voluntarily participating in the Byron Township Project announced last week. The Project is a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, University of Minnesota, the Sustainable Farming Association, and Central Technical Community College. Information gained in this first-of-its-kind study will benefit communities and farmers throughout Minnesota and elsewhere. . . .
We were curious about the company’s involvement with the project and thus asked a friend active in the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota about that partnership.
In a statement (complete press release embedded below), the SFA explained that it is providing technical assistance and placed “in partnership” in quotation marks:
In 2014, Kent Solberg, SFA Livestock & Grazing Specialist, provided suggestions to the NRCS Conservation Plan for a project at the Agricultural and Energy Center at Central Lakes College, which involved a lease of R.D. Offutt Company land in Byron Township, Cass County. The intent of the project was to look at innovative cropping practices to protect groundwater. Other members of the advisory team included staff from Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), University of Minnesota (U of M), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the regulatory agency monitoring ground water on the site through their irrigation well permitting process.
In a news release last week , R.D. Offutt and Company described SFA’s involvement as being “in partnership” with R.D. Offutt.
“While our involvement in R.D. Offutt’s Byron Township Project is primarily as technical assistance for the Central Lakes College NRCS Conservation Plan, we are encouraged that R.D. Offutt has been open to exploring sustainable farming solutions to expand to their many acres of potato ground throughout Minnesota,” SFA Executive Director John Mesko said. “Our goal as leaders in soil health education is to replicate high value agroecology production models on as many acres as possible, with as many farms as possible, regardless of size or current farming practice.” . . .
We also found the last sentence of the Offutt news item fascinating:
Potlatch, which has been using the land to grow trees for commercial wood products manufacturing, is cutting down the trees for its own use before we ever take possession.
Perhaps Offutt needs a lesson on Potlatch’s statement, Our Forest Stewardship Policy. While Potlatch is selling the land now, to point the finger at a timber company for “cutting down the trees for its own use” seems willful ignorance about renewable forestry. But perhaps the RDO leadership can’t see the forest for the trees.
Here’s the Sustainable Farming Association press release: