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Sally Jo Sorensen
Sally Sorensen, an independent blogger, lives and works in rural Minnesota.
Recent Activity
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Although there's no Trump administration nominee for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) secretary yet, the Trump Transition team took a little time today to cheer a merger of two giant ag corporations today. Oh lovely. Bluestem Prairie's editor is a member of Minnesota Farmers Union, and so we pass along this statement from the National Farmers Union: President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team announced today that it has struck a deal with Bayer AG, committing the German agricultural input company to investing $8 billion towards research and development should the company be permitted to acquire competitor Monsanto Co. In response... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Bluestem Prairie
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A minority lead for a Minnesota House committee recently closed a meeting by reading the grand opening of Charles Dicken's Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity . . . The contrast between belief and incredulity certainly struck us as we read this passage in J. Patrick Coolican's article for the Strib, Legislature's GOP majorities push hard early on: The first few weeks of a legislative session... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Bluestem Prairie
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Via the Rochester Post Bulletin, Kyle Potter of the Associated Press reports Republicans target water quality law for repeal. That "water quality law" is the so-called buffer law requiring vegetative buffers or an alternative along public drainage ditches, streams and rivers. Potter's article explores various facets of the law, but we doubt that we'll see that sort of even-handedness on Thursday, January 19 in a Minnesota House joint committee meeting on Thursday, January 19 from 8:15 through 12 noon. From the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance web page: Thursday, January 19, 2017 8:15 AM Time Note: ***This is... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Back at the end of December, we noted in a post that the Swift County Monitor reported in Promotion of Appleton prison to continue in 2017 that a local official thought Minnesota House Public Safety Committee chair Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, favored leasing the shuttered private prison in Appleton: Hendrickx told fellow commissioners that it seems that the appetite to purchase isn’t as strong as it was last year; there is more of an appetite to lease, he said. Whose appetite is favoring leasing over buying? Commissioner Ed Pederson, District 2-north Benson, asked Hendrickx. Republican Tony Cornish, chair of the... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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It's hard for Bluestem to resist sharing an article by West Central Tribune education beat reported Linda Vanderwerf, Sen. Al Franken talks about Willmar in Sessions hearing. Vanderwerf reports: U.S. Sen. Al Franken has once again placed Willmar in a national spotlight, this time during his questioning of attorney general-designate Jeff Sessions in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting this week. Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, is President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general. . . . Franken has spoken before about his visit to Willmar Senior High School for the graduation of the Class of 2016 and about the... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Back in 2015 in Leap from legislator to lobbyist a short one in Minnesota, Dan Bauman and Rachel Stassen-Berger reported for the St. Paul Pioneer Press: The revolving door at Minnesota’s Capitol moves so quickly, it can be dizzying. Longtime Rep. Jim Abeler pushed through this year. On Jan. 6 he ended his 16-year run representing Anoka in the Minnesota House. On Jan. 21, he registered to lobby his former colleagues. Bluestem believes that former state representative Tom Hackbarth moved even more quickly. According to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library's Legislators Past and Present entry for the Cedar Republican, Hackbarth... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Although supporters of the Minnesota Corridor--the proposed private high-speed passenger rail line formerly known as Ziprail and the North American High Speed Rail Group--claim that the project will be funded entirely by private money, they quickly object to any legislation that would make sure that will be true. We don't understand why they object to such bills, if the line truly doesn't need public funding. Take the latest example reported by Heather Carlson in the Rochester Post Bulletin article, Lawmaker seeks ban on Rochester to Twin Cities high-speed rail funding: A state lawmaker is once again seeking to ban all... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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A lightly-edited advisory from the MPCA: The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will be hosting three open houses on the wild rice sulfate standard rulemaking in January 2017. The main purpose is to provide the interested public with an opportunity to learn more about the MPCA's proposed approach for revisions to its wild rice sulfate water quality standard before the proposed rule goes on public notice later in 2017. MPCA staff will be available to provide information about the agency's proposed approach to protect wild rice from sulfate, the list of proposed wild rice waters, the rulemaking schedule and upcoming opportunities... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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In a press call this morning, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith promised that the governor's new budget would include "robust funding" for new rural broadband projects, but declined to name an amount. Smith and DEED conducted to call to answer questions from the Greater Minnesota press about 42 grants announced today by the agency. Via the Winona Daily News, the Associated Press reports in Latest broadband funds to boost internet for 16K households: More Minnesota households and businesses will get broadband internet access. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith says the expansion will level the playing field for Minnesota residents. The grants... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Last Friday at a town hall meeting in Clinton, Minnesota, state senator Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, who chairs the Minnesota Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance Committee, answered a question about pollinators, neonicotinoids and policy by buzzing about an invasive weed species in conservation seed mixes. Not that he knew the name of the weed. We think he's talking about Palmer amaranth in the clip we recorded below, since that's the one in news reports like AgWeb's How Palmer Amaranth is Sneaking into Minnesota Fields and the Pioneer Press's Killer weed surges northward, menacing crops in Minnesota and other... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Bluestem's editor has the pleasure of knowing grazing expert Kent Solberg, profiled in Sheila McCoy's article in the Morrison County Record article, Farmer mentor stresses soil health for agricultural success. We're not surprised that Solberg is putting goats to work in fighting two invasive terrestrial species at once. McCoy reports: For many farmers, the plant, buckthorn, has become a concern. “Buckthorn has been in Minnesota for about 40 years, but it’s only relatively recent that it has been identified as an issue, both in agriculture and in forestry,” said Kent Solberg, livestock and grazing specialist with the Sustainable Farming Association... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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The website for Minnesota's incredible shrinking high speed rail project has just gotten a rebrand, along with having a lot less information (i.e. none) posted online. North American High Speed Rail Group's domain name, http://nahsr.com, now redirects visitors to something called the Minnesota Corridor, domain name http://mnhsr.com. A search on ICANN's WHOIS site reveals that Minnesota Corridor's domain was registered on October 22, 2016 with one person for registrant contact, admin contact and tech contact: Name: Wendy Meadley Organization: Social Wendy Group Mailing Address: 6403 Limerick Drive, Edina Minnesota 55439 US . . . The screenshot at the top of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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At MinnPost, Briana Bierschbach reports A new Legislature gears up to tackle the same old issues: Legislators returned to the Minnesota State Capitol building this week after a messy, three-year restoration project — two months after a contentious election that ushered in 44 new lawmakers and gave Republicans control of both the House and Senate. But any notion of a fresh start in St. Paul ends there. The first week of the 2017 legislative session was dominated by failed issues of legislative sessions past, from tax relief and bonding projects to the problem-plagued health insurance exchange. The main push came... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith released details of the administration's bonding bill, labeled a jobs bill by Dayton and Smith. Across the state, news media reported on the local angle in the $1.5 billion proposal. At the St. Peter Herald, Nancy Madsen reports in Local projects included in Dayton's $1.5 billion bonding bill: St. Peter’s Minnesota Security Hospital once again tops the list for regional projects supported in Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding bill proposal. He released his proposal on Wednesday morning. As in 2016, he proposed $70.3 million for a second phase of expansion and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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by Andy Birkey Cross-posted from The Column An anti-transgender bill was introduced in the Minnesota House on Wednesday that could scale back gender-inclusive schools policies across the state if passed. HF0041 would bar schools from allowing transgender and gender nonconforming students from using the facilities of their gender. It also defines “sex” in state law as a restrictive categories of male and female (The majority of research on sex and gender has shown that both are highly variable in humans). The bill states in part: The purpose of this section is to protect and provide for the privacy and safety... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Though Minnesota's temperatures have dropped, our political climate is heating up, with a new administration moving into the White House and Republicans back in control of the Minnesota Legislature. If you enjoy Bluestem's take on the news--and our investigative blogging--please consider throwing some spare change into our paypal account. Bluestem relies on reader contributions to continue publishing. If you appreciate our posts and original analysis, you can mail contributions (payable to Sally Jo Sorensen, 33166 770th Ave, Ortonville, MN 56278) or use the paypal button in the upper right hand corner of this post. Or you can contribute via this... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Back in July, First District Congressman Tim Walz announced his intention to seek the Ranking Member seat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He's succeeded in that bid, Politico's Heather Caygle tweeted on Wednesday: Dem Steering & Policy picked Walz over Takano for Veterans Affairs ranking member 31-19 — Heather Caygle (@heatherscope) January 4, 2017 In House Democrats have opportunity for redemption in selecting VA Cmte Leader, commentary in The Hill, Christopher Neiweem and Anthony Paolino wrote of Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress: Two years ago, Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) — the veteran community's... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Via a press release from Minnesota state representative Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley: Representative Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley) and Senator Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) will be co-hosting a town hall meeting next Friday, January 6th at 8:00 AM at The Inadvertent Café in Clinton, MN (131 Main St.). “I look forward to co-hosting this joint town hall with my Senator,” said Backer. “I encourage people to come with their questions, comments, concerns, and suggestions for the upcoming legislative session.” “I would like to echo the comments of the Representative,” said Westrom. “I am excited to hear from our community; I’m glad... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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According to TPM's Your Independent Office Of Congressional Ethics Vote Checklist, newly-minted Minnesota Second District Congressman Jason Lewis voted in a closed-door meeting to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the authority of the House Ethics Committee: Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN), from a TPM reader who contacted his office. Sixth Congressional District Republican, Tom Emmer of Delano, managed to get on TPM's ""We'll get back to you" (Staff weren't sure how these congresspeople vote") list: Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), from a TPM reader who contacted his office. And Erik Paulsen? No one reported on him to TPM. If you... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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After we posted Empire of the senseless: rural legislators shrug off rural broadband funding for coming session, we came across two more rural broadband pieces via The Morning Take. In Mark Fischenich's article at the Mankato Free Press, Rural broadband fight to continue in '17 session, there's this item: . . . But while lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton have had well-publicized debates over the grant funding, the telecommunications industry has been winning quieter battles that may be undermining the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, according to Dan Dorman. "It's really been a tough uphill battle," said Dorman, executive director... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Although Greater Minnesotans speak up about the need for high speed broadband and the issue frequently grabbed headlines in rural newspapers last year, at Don Davis's Capital Chatter blog, the veteran Forum Communications reporter writes in Broadband not a top 2017 topic: A new report says $100 million in state money is needed every two years to help expand broadband high-speed internet throughout Minnesota, but rural lawmakers have said relatively little about it leading up to the 2017 Legislature. We posted about the report in Need for speed: MN DEED releases Governor's Task Force on Broadband 2016 Annual Report. Davis... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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The Swift County Monitor reports that Minnesota House Public Safety Chair Tony Cornish would like to lease the closed private prison in Appleton--and that Corrections Corporation of America has rebranded itself as CoreCivic. The paper reports in Promotion of Appleton prison to continue in 2017: Swift County is already gearing up to make another effort to get the State of Minnesota to lease or buy the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton. At the county board’s meeting Dec. 19, Commissioner Gary Hendrickx, District 1-Appleton, reported that he and Commission Chair Pete Peterson, District 3-south Benson, had attended a meeting of representatives... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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It's an article of faith among corporate lobbyists and public affairs storytellers--and the lawmakers from both parties who love them-- that those of us who live in Greater Minnesota loathe environmentalism. Meet Johanna Rupprecht, the young woman from Winona County who is the Rochester Post Bulletin's Newsmaker of the Year. Rupprecht clarified rural values and organized people in Southeastern Minnesota to stand for those values. Brian Todd writes in Year in Review: Rupprecht leads charge to ban frac sand: On Nov. 22, the Winona County Board of Commissioners did something no other county in Minnesota — likely in the nation... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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News sources are reporting that another potential nominee for President-elect Donald Trump's Secretary of Agriculture was interviewed in Florida today: former congressman Henry Bonilla. Given the importance of agriculture, conservation and national forests in Greater Minnesota, the ag secretary nominee concerns the livelihoods and passions of many of Bluestem's readers. Update, 12/30: Lobbyist for Career Education Colleges and Universities Via the Clerk of the House of Representatives, we discovered that Bonilla filed a LD-1 Disclosure Report on May 1, 2016, noting that his client Liz Williams & Co, on behalf of Assn of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. This was... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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As Minnesota's newspapers compile their top-ten stories of 2016 lists, Bluestem paused at these passages in Michael Bruns' Top 10 stories of 2016: No. 8, Zip Rail grinds to a halt; private high-speed rail proposal faces backlash: Opposition to the project was spearheaded by the grassroots group Citizens Concerned About Rail Line. Members have cited a number of grievances with high-speed rail, including disruption of farmland and the threat of eminent domain [by the private entity for private profit]. Co-chair Heather Arndt said CCARL stayed engaged with MnDOT and local legislators in 2016 as well as researched NAHSR and its... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie