I can't believe what I just read — that legislation to increase costs to farmers by $20 per year for better testing and analyses procedures for nitrate did not pass ("Legislator wants nitrate onus on farmers," Dec. 3). Also, I can't believe that state Sen. Steve Drazkowski made the ridiculous statement that potential and present homeowners need to take responsibility to ensure their water is safe. Of course they need to take that responsibility — because they have no other choice. However, the farming community does have responsibility to help identify and improve on the problem. Will $20 or even $100 per year as an added cost to the landowner who spreads nitrates in the form of fertilizer make the landowner go out of business or take huge losses? I think not. In fact instead of being a controversial issue I would think that the farm community would try to help improve the situation, because they live in the areas that have the problem. It shouldn't be a homeowner vs. landowner issue. Are rural legislators trying to help solve the problem, or are they buying votes by making such ridiculous statements?
Philip Vieth, Hastings
I'm confused. State Sen. Drazkowski claims that private well owners are responsible for having wells that are contaminated with high nitrates and other groundwater poisons associated with fertilizers and overcrowded livestock farms. What magic well or "up to code" standards will keep my well from pumping up contaminated groundwater? Or perhaps that's just the price we pay to live in a rural area.
Brian Layer, Becker, Minn.
Praises to Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, for his efforts to tax clean up farm pollution in southeastern Minnesota. Our farm in Dodge County is surrounded by 12 swine factory farms in a 3-mile radius. The standard swine feeder operation holds 1.1 million gallons of manure that is spread on the ground each fall. Spreading of manure oftentimes occurs at night, cleverly hiding the amount and location of manure spread on the ground. Our citizens group audited manure management plans on file with Dodge County. Of the 300-plus registered feedlots in Dodge County, only 37 manure management plans were on file with the county. No one knows where and how much manure is being spread on the ground.
When you're done taxing factory farm operators for polluting Minnesota's waterways, tax these operators for stripping our aquifers. Industrial factory farms are heavy water users, requiring an average of 4 gallons per day per hog. For a standard operation consisting of 2,400 hogs, that amounts to 9,600 gallons of water per day. Over a one-year period, a single operation strips nearly 3.5 million gallons of water from the aquifer. With 12 swine factory farms in a 3-mile radius of our farm, these industrial operations are stripping nearly 42 million gallons of water per year from the aquifer.
It's time to tax the industry, not only for stripping the aquifers, but for returning water contaminated.
Sonja Trom Eayrs, Maple Grove
The author is writing on behalf of Dodge County Concerned Citizens.
Beware the fee increases
In response to the article "Townhouse sales grow as house prices soar" (Dec. 3) I find it unconscionable that the writer would not even mention the HOA (homeowners association) fees for townhouses. This article seems to espouse the savings of living in a townhouse. Having lived in a townhouse for 20 years, and now living in a condominium, I can assure you there is flexibility to lock the door, but you do not leave everything behind. Monthly HOA fees continue to rise along with the cost of nearly every commodity and service today. It is becoming increasingly difficult to even find an insurance company that will insure a CIC (Common Interest Community). Our condominium property management company anticipates insurance rates to rise over 55% next year (if we can find a policy). And, if you haven't done your homework and purchase a townhouse in a poorly managed HOA with inadequate reserve money, you may be hit with significant assessments that will quickly cut into the affordability. Sellers may be getting what they are asking for, but buyers may be getting a lot less than they bargained for. Beware!
Audrey Erickson, Minneapolis
In "Buyer appetite drives building" (Dec. 6), the housing market today is described as "a market that remains starved for inventory." New single-family homes and apartments are wonderful to see; however, it is questionable whether any of these building permits are being used for affordable housing. Using the materials, money and land to construct more affordable housing could greatly help the availability of housing, as well as the homeless population.
Because affordable housing units tend to be smaller in size and contain less advanced amenities, more units could be constructed in a shorter time. Additionally, the lot sizes could be decreased, allowing for a larger density of units in a specific area.
More affordable housing opportunities could impact those experiencing homelessness as well. The Hennepin County website states that on Jan. 25 of this year, 2,843 people spent the night in shelters or transitional housing. Meanwhile, 469 people spent the night in an unsheltered area. These numbers are the highest they've been since 2019. The homeless population in the Twin Cities metro area has been apparent for years and will continue to grow unless more affordable housing is available.
To increase the housing inventory and work toward decreasing the homeless population, smaller and more affordable housing should be considered for construction in future years.
Molly Stein, Sartell, Minn.
Republicans can choose better
Clive Crook, a Bloomberg columnist who admits that he didn't recognize the danger of Donald Trump in 2016, is now joining the chorus of pundits blaming Trump on the Democrats ("With trust in collapse, Trump could rise again," Dec. 3). Apparently, Republican voters have no agency, and if Democrats don't nominate someone Crook likes, well, it's their fault that Republicans are choosing an aspiring authoritarian.
Crook is not alone. Editorial writers and news reporters alike frame our situation as one in which Republicans can't be expected to be responsible for the danger to the country inherent in their behavior, while the Democrats, as the only adults in government, are to blame when things go wrong.
Ellen Thomas, St. Louis Park
Unheeded warnings abound
The commentary piece "Regulate AI like humanity's future depends on it" (Opinion Exchange, Dec. 4) uses the example of the Fukushima facility tsunami as a reason to regulate AI.
There is a much more recent and disastrous example. Israel had warning of a Hamas strike and chose to ignore it because it did not consider such an attack to be possible. Hamas proved otherwise!
If we refuse to learn from history and ignore possible threats, that only leaves the door open for those threats to occur. I don't know much about artificial intelligence, but there are those who do. If we choose to ignore what they have to tell us, that leaves the door open for disaster.
Carolyn Landry, Hudson, Wis.
For the record, Japan officially recognizes one death from radiation as a result of the nuclear accident at Fukushima. And that death was the result of lung cancer years after the accident.
Spencer J. Kubo, Minneapolis