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Gordon testifies about water quality efforts

ST. PAUL — Bill Gordon came to the Capitol last week to tell senators what he’s doing on his Nobles County farmland to protect and improve water quality.

Gordon, a fourth generation farmer who lives near Worthington, is vice president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and treasurer of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition.

He testified before the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Economies on March 8.

Farmers today use less fertilizer to raise more crops, with one United States farmer feeding 125 people. The farm population continues to decrease, Gordon said. About 1 percent of the United States population is raising the majority of food for the world.

The animals and crops raised today need to be more abundant to feed a growing world population, he said.

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Gordon said a key thing, said Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton. The world population is growing and the increasing middle class in Asia, India and China is asking for more and different food. It’s incumbent on the United States to be a large supplier of food needs for the world.

Farmers are embracing new technologies because they allow them to grow more food using less resources, Gordon said. Growing biotech crops, for example, means less pesticide use.

Farmers are usually one step ahead of what lawmakers are asking them to do, Gordon said.

The Discovery Farms project, a joint effort of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition, is an example of farmers being proactive.

Four sites are located across the state to gather field-level data of what is exiting fields, said Warren Formo, executive director of the MAWRC, which has 15 agricultural association members.

The coalition works to involve farmers in research to gather good data so farmers can become even better stewards of their land, Formo said.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture testified about the projects it’s involved with that are funded by dollars from the Land and Legacy constitutional amendment and also projects funded by Minnesota’s Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council through the fertilizer fee. Satish Gupta and Carl Rosen from the University of Minnesota rounded out the testimony.

Magnus, who chairs the Senate ag committee, called the hearing one of the best hearings he’s had in the agriculture committee. It was a great hearing with a lot of good information, he said.

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Magnus is carrying SF668, which allocates money from the Land and Legacy amendment to fund agricultural water quality research. He said he wants to use the money to continue the work that farmers are doing to improve water quality.

Everyone said they don't have all the answers, Magnus said, and there is a whole realm of things to keep working on.

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