DNR rejects petition for environmental assessment on pine-to-potatoes conversion
Callaway, MN—On Friday afternoon, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rejected a petition by central Minnesota residents for an environmental assessment on RD Offutt’s proposed expansion into the Pineland Sands Aquifer. The day before DNR issued its decision, RD Offutt (RDO) withdrew two of its remaining four applications for irrigation permits in the Pineland Sands, reducing the company’s request for irrigation permits from 54 requests to three. (One permit has already been issued; two applications are still pending DNR approval.)
“This is definitely a victory,” said Amy Mondloch, coordinator of Toxic Taters. “A year ago RDO was looking for 54 permits and an expansion of thousands of acres. Right now they’ve gotten one permit and are seeking two more. We’ve got more work to do. We still believe an environmental assessment is the right tool to use and we’re concerned that RDO has been clearly working to avoid public oversight.”
Lex Horan, organizer with Pesticide Action Network, said, “RDO seems to be doing everything in its power to avoid an environmental assessment of its expansion, even though the company claimed last year that it would be happy to cooperate in an environmental review. RDO celebrates its agricultural practices at every turn. Why are they so intent on dodging the public process?”
In the wake of DNR’s decision, Toxic Taters and allied groups are considering all their options, including appealing the decision. RDO has reduced its permit requests, but because of the company’s recent land acquisitions and the original 54 permits that the company requested, local residents remain concerned that RDO still intends to clearcut more pine forests in the Pineland Sands to plant potatoes. Petitioning organizations and local residents will continue to call for transparency and public accountability from RDO and its buyers, including McDonald’s.
“Back in April, McDonald’s, one of RDO’s largest buyers, made a commitment to help stop deforestation worldwide. We’re asking that they live up to that commitment here in Minnesota. We want to be clear, our forests are worth more than french fries,” said Mondloch.