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Riddle - Letter to the editor

Fri, Aug 15th, 2003
Posted in Obituaries

Letter about Heartland

I am writing to express concern about the proposed Heartland Tire Burning Plant near Preston, MN. According to plans, the plant would burn 103,000 tons of tires a year, or 396 tons a day, producing thousands of pounds of toxic air pollutants and releasing 44,000 gallons of wastewater a day.

For more than 22 years I have been an organic farmer, gardener, inspector, educator, policy analyst, author, and consumer. I was founding chair of the Independent Organic Inspectors Association, (IOIA), and have trained hundreds of organic inspectors throughout the world. I have chaired the Minnesota Department of Agricultures Organic Advisory Task Force. I serve on the National Organic Standards Board, which advises the USDA on organic agriculture policies and regulations. In 2003, I was appointed Endowed Chair of Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota.

I would like to provide information on organic certification requirements, and discuss the potential impacts that a proposed tire burning facility would have on organic farmers in southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, and western Wisconsin.

Organic farmers are required under USDA National Organic Program regulations to prevent unintended application of prohibited substances to their organic land. This standard is generally met by incorporating buffer zones, tree lines, or runoff diversion on the borders of organic fields. It may also be met by reaching agreements with neighbors to not apply prohibited materials adjacent to organic fields. If the tire burning facility is constructed, organic farms in the region will likely be subjected to the application of prohibited materials. No buffer zones or diversions will prevent widespread airborne contamination.

Organic livestock producers are required to establish and maintain preventative health care practices. They are also required to feed 100% organically grown feeds. If a tire burning plant is built, organic farmers will likely feed contaminated feeds which could compromise the health and well being of their animals. This would be a violation of the organic regulations.

To be sold as organic, products must not contain residues of prohibited substances in excess of 5% of the Environmental Protection Agencys established tolerance levels. Emissions from a tire burning facility would likely lead to contamination of organic foods and feeds in excess of 5% of EPA tolerances. This would mean that none of the contaminated food from the region could be sold as organic, even though the farmers used organic practices, and the food or feed was contaminated through no fault of their own.

The organic food industry has grown at over 20% per year for the past 12 years, with over $12 billion in U.S. sales in 2002. It is the fastest growing sector of agriculture. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, Minnesota is number one in the production of organic corn, soybeans, rye, and total beans. We are 4th in the number of certified organic operations, and 6th in total organic acreage. We are in the top ten in organic dairy, poultry, and hogs, and our organic livestock sector is growing rapidly.

This region is home to numerous certified organic dairy, beef, grain, and vegetable farms, and more are beginning the transition to organic methods. Construction of a tire burning facility would endanger the certification and viability of many farmers, and suppress the potential for this form of environmentally and economically sustainable production.

Elected officials and government regulatory bodies, including the MPCA, should do all within their powers to protect air and water quality. Organic agriculture protects air, water, and soil quality. Tire burning presents a danger to the environment and to the health of the region, and it endangers a system of agriculture compatible with the fragile ecology of the Karst region.

James A. Riddle

Policy Specialist

Organic Independents

Winona, MN

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