I am writing to urge that the Natural Resources, Economic Development and Agricultural Budget Committee NOT approve a Pineland Sands Land and Water Study. Let me be clear: this proposal is NOT an appropriate allocation of “conservation” funds or, for that matter, any tax-supported funds. The so-called “need” for this study would NOT even exist if R.D. Offutt were NOT trying to turn pinelands into potatoes for huge private profit. And because RDO hopes to expand its agricultural behemoth at the greatest cost benefit, it refused to subject its application for 54 new water use permits to appropriate environmental assessment.
By now the number of permits has been pared back, only temporarily to be sure, creating the false impression that RDO has changed the magnitude of its planned expansion. This runs roughshod over the concerns of a huge number of citizens regarding required environmental review. It also insults our intelligence—as if we can’t see how segmenting this application into smaller chunks violates environmental regulations by circumventing comprehensive review of the entire project. DNR officials have capitulated yet again to Big Ag by suggesting the proposed study as an alternate type of environmental review covering a larger area that just happens to include RDO’s land. This alternative, however, would be paid for by the public rather than the applicant who should rightfully bear the cost!
DNR knows, of course, that many of you legislators enjoy generous support from big business in general, and from R.D. Offutt’s business in particular. At a time when our entire country is in political upheaval over heightened awareness of how financially beholden elected officials are to big business lobbies, I hardly need to emphasize what bad judgment it would be on your part—to say nothing of environmentally and fiscally irresponsible—to promote R.D. Offutt’s profits at public expense.
Bottom line: if RDO intends to expand its potato operation, it must do so subject to MEPA [Minnesota Environmental Policy Act] and/or all other existing environmental rules and regulations that protect the quality of Minnesota’s water and woodland resources. And if you intend to do your sworn duty to represent the interests of the citizens who elected you—NOT corporations who are NOT citizens and therefore do NOT have the vote—then you must deny funding for this RDO-backed study. I can’t say it more plainly than that. Please do the right thing and vote NO!
Mary A. Conrad
Park Rapids, Minn.