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MDH meeting story,  Storytelling Project, Legislative Update, Pine Point Well Testing, "Working Together" "Giwiidanokiimin", Get Involved with McDonald's Campaign, Summer Intern Possibility, Upcoming Events.
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The Tater Communicator  Issue 12 February-March 2017

Moving Ahead Working with the Department of Health
 

Toxic Taters takes a multi-pronged approach to finding answers to protecting our land, air, water, and community from the damages of chemically intensive potato farming.  Some days you’ll find us out with protest signs in front of McDonald’s and other days you’ll find us sitting down and talking with the staff of the Minnesota Department of Health learning more about their work and figuring out how we might encourage the best in our state agencies.  

On Monday, February 27th, we sat down with the Department of Health (MDH) along with our allies from the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Pesticide Action Network.  Our discussion focused on learning more about the role of MDH in educating the public and health professionals about the impacts of pesticides, working with the Department of Ag around pesticide misuse, and monitoring drinking water.  

There are two major definitions for pollution sources determined by the EPA.  Point source and nonpoint source.  Point source pollution comes from an identifiable point, like a sewage treatment plant or factory.  Nonpoint pollution generally results from land runoff, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage or hydrologic modification.  It includes things like the agricultural runoff and eroding streambanks that concern many people involved with Toxic Taters.  The big problem that was apparent through our discussion with MDH yesterday was that nonpoint pollution doesn’t fall under the Clean Water Act.  That means while MDH and the Depart of Agriculture do testing of wells no one is clearly responsible for cleanup if levels of pollutants exceed safe levels.  MDH also sets advisory levels for some chemicals, but they remain advisory unless put into rules by other agencies.

We also discussed MDH’s role in dealing with pesticide drift complaints.  While MDH plays only a support role providing assistance when the Department of Agriculture needs advice with issues related to their areas of work, they were able to point out some important shortfalls in the existing process.  They echoed our belief that it is essential for people who have been impacted by pesticide misuse to visit a doctor or the ER, emphasizing that it is impossible to see patterns in medical issues if people aren’t seeking medical attention.  They also recommended calling poison control for acute issues to speak with 24 hour on call toxicologists 1-800-222-1222. (Make sure to request a record of any discussions with medical staff.)

Toxic Taters will be taking what we’ve learned in this initial conversation with MDH to move forward with discussions with the Department of Agriculture as well as with Poison Control in our efforts to improve the pesticide drift reporting process, educate medical professionals and the public on the impacts of pesticides, and improve the responses to pesticides in our environment.

Amy Mondloch, at MOSES speaking about fighting pesticide-intensive potato farming.  Photo credit Linda Wells.
 
Storytelling Project Update
By Kent Scheer

"IT'S REAL"

A Local Storytelling Project 

When you live in a farming region, like we do, you will hear the occasional complaint about a plane over-spraying herbicide on someone's roses or about a family who lost their well from water pollution. We tend to skim past these accounts. Maybe that's because it's not anyone we really know or even because it just sounds like complaining.

But, hear that story firsthand from the man or woman who lived it and it is no longer forgettable. These cases of industrial ag carelessness bring real illness, anger, and despair. People stay awake, lose gardens, throw away sheets and pillowcases, and even move. Dreams are lost and lives are changed.

Toxic Taters is making a collection of personal stories from people whose lives have been affected by neighboring large-scale agricultural excess. The purpose is to show just how real and life changing this can be.  Examples worth telling would be families experiencing water pollution, run-off, chemical overspray, noise pollution, or overwhelming odors.

If you have a story please share it. You can begin by contacting tatercommunication@gmail.com for details.

No matter what your writing ability, if you tell it to your best, people will listen.

Legislative Update
By Lex Horan, Pesticide Action Network

The big day is here! Both of the pollinator bills that we've been waiting for have been introduced. One bill would create a pollinator account to protect pollinators from pesticides; the other would create a program to tackle the widespread use of treated seeds.  Below this email is a bit more background on the bills. I also wrote a post about it on PAN's blog. 

Now, we want to show broad support for this legislation. Will you fill out this short form to indicate whether your organization supports these bills? 

Also, if you've been thinking of sending a letter to the editor in support of this legislation, now's the time. I'd love to see at least five papers across the state publish supportive letters to the editor in the next week. It helps remind legislators that people all over the state care deeply about this issue. Letters can be short - about 200 words. If you're interested, let me know how I can help. I'm happy to help with writing. 

Finally: we expect that there will be hearings for these bills in March. Are you interested in testifying in person or with written testimony? 

---
Background on the issue: 
The legislation we're supporting this session comes directly from the action steps proposed by the Minnesota Dept of Agriculture, based on their review of neonicotinoid pesticides. Most of the recommendations from the Dept of Ag and from the Governor's executive order are for state agencies. But two pieces of the plan need legislative action to move forward. They are: 
1) Pollinator account: would fund research and outreach to protect pollinators from pesticides. Right now, the "pollinator account" is included in a larger ag finance bill, HF 895/SF 780. For more information, here's PAN's Statement. 

2) Treated seed program: Part of HF 1717, the ag policy bill. Pesticide seed treatments are the most common use of neonicotinoid insecticides in the state -- 40% of the soybeans, and nearly 100% of the corn, planted in the state have been treated with neonicotinoids. This legislation would allow MDA to monitor and regulate pesticide-coated seeds in the same way that it manages all other pesticides applied in the state. It would also increase research about specific Minnesota pests and effective pest management; how effective seed treatments are in different situations; etc. This bill would give researchers, state agency staff, farmers and the public additional information about how treated seed is used in the state; it would not place any restrictions on when or where treated seeds can be planted.  Here's PAN's statement. 

---
Background on the issue: 
The legislation we're supporting this session comes directly from the action steps proposed by the Minnesota Dept of Agriculture, based on their review of neonicotinoid pesticides. Most of the recommendations from the Dept of Ag and from the Governor's executive order are for state agencies. But two pieces of the plan need legislative action to move forward. They are: 
1) Pollinator account: would fund research and outreach to protect pollinators from pesticides. Right now, the "pollinator account" is included in a larger ag finance bill, HF 895/SF 780. For more information, here's PAN's Statement. 

2) Treated seed program: Part of HF 1717, the ag policy bill. Pesticide seed treatments are the most common use of neonicotinoid insecticides in the state -- 40% of the soybeans, and nearly 100% of the corn, planted in the state have been treated with neonicotinoids. This legislation would allow MDA to monitor and regulate pesticide-coated seeds in the same way that it manages all other pesticides applied in the state. It would also increase research about specific Minnesota pests and effective pest management; how effective seed treatments are in different situations; etc. This bill would give researchers, state agency staff, farmers and the public additional information about how treated seed is used in the state; it would not place any restrictions on when or where treated seeds can be planted.  Here's PAN's statement. 

 
You can contact Lex Horan at lex@panna.org 
Eugene Vivier & Michael Bowman Sr. updating everyone at the Pine Point meeting about the well water test results.  Also, the sign is from Sam Crowell, from a local field that gets sprayed! 

Pine Point Water Testing Results

Late last summer and into early fall the White Earth Nation tested 16 private wells in the Pine Point community as part of a larger statewide well testing program coordinated by the MN Department of Agriculture.  They tested the private wells primarily for nitrates.  Only one well was found to exceed the legal limit of 10mg/l of nitrates at this time.

The White Earth Public Works Division is planning on testing the same wells every two years.  If they see high level of nitrates or a upward movement in the nitrate levels they will start testing more often.

Toxic Taters and the White Earth Land Recovery Project are planning to work with  White Earth to further explore the connections between health and pesticide impacts on our water through a mapping project looking at well testing results in Pine Point and the surrounding area over layed with the information on an array of health issues.  
If you would like to learn more about the MDA's well study throughout Minnesota check out
https://www.mda.state.mn.us/chemicals/pesticides/maace.aspx . If you have any questions about the Pine Point well testing email Jeff Vivier at Eugene.Vivier@whiteearth-nsn.gov.
Picture from Bob Shimek at Standing Rock.  Flags represent all the different tribes around the nation. 

"Giwiidanokiimin" - "We are Working Together"
By Bev St. John
"Working Together"

Are you a protester or are you a protector? 
All of creation can do well without our existence.  
We can not exist without all of creation. 
A protester in engaged with civil disobedience in a creation to an objectable action of the lack of action.  The civil disobediance is done in order to change the present condition.  The protester will march to influence those who can back the completion of the pipeline.
A protector is responsible for the well being of the creation that is being put in danger. The civil disobedience is a proactive effort to civil disobedience is a proactive effort to preserve the creature not just for the present...for oneself...but also for the future...generations to come.  A protector will pray that the water will not be polluted.  
Which is better...nobler...?  They are different views of this world.  
Protectors and protesters working together will get the job done.
 

Getting Involved with the Upcoming McDonald's Campaign 


It's been less than three years since we rolled out the first statewide day of action on McDonald's.  Last year we took them by storm with a full week of action nationally. This year we're upping to action again and moving to engaging people across the country throughout the year through online actions, phone-ins to McDonald's, video storytelling, a major ad campaign and more.  

With the help of a growing list allied groups across the country including our close friends Pesticide Action Network and Corporate Accountability International, we'll be continuing to build the pressure to get McDonald's to meet with us and to lead the way in the fast food industry by cutting their use of pesticides.

This campaign depends on a strong crew of volunteers who like to do things like; talk to people, design memes, write stories or media releases, make videos, make art to share, talk to the media, and have fun.  If any of these things sounds like you, contact Amy at 218-375-2600 or tatercoordinator@gmail.com.  Our next organizing call is coming up soon!


 
Toxic Taters Calendar

Toxic Taters is made of people who care about what's happening in the potato fields region of Minnesota.  Are you one of those people?  Then come join us at some of these upcoming events or contact us with suggestions for the calendar.

March 1st - Park Rapids Meeting
March 2-5th - 14th Annual Indigenous Farming Conference
March 9th - Pine Point Meeting
March 27th- Wadena Meeting
April 28-29th - Beyond Pesticides Conference 

Ways To Help Today

  1. Write your letter to the editor on upcoming pollinator legislation
  2. Do you have a story to tell?  Sign up to tell your story
  3. Help hang flyers or do turnout calls for local meetings
  4. Donate today. All donations are tax deductible.
  5. Sign the McDonald's petition.
  6. Host a fundraising event at your home
  7. Like us on Facebook
  8. Join us for an upcoming discussion with a state agency
To Get Involved  go to our website www.toxictaters.org
call 218-375-2600 or email tatercoordinator@gmail.com
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Our contact information is:
PO Box 25 Callaway, MN 56521
tatercoordinator@gmail.com
218-375-2600 or 218-8503629

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