Voluntary program for farmers and landowners protects state’s water resources
Thanks to the efforts of farmers, private businesses, and government, over 500,000 acres of Minnesota farmland is now enrolled in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). The program marked the milestone August 1st at Jon and Carin Stevens’ Maple Grove Farm near Rush City in Pine County. The Stevens’ grow a variety of crops, including corn, soybeans, and small grains, and raise beef cattle.
The MAWQCP is a voluntary program for farmers and landowners that protects the state’s water resources. Since the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program’s inception in 2014, 772 farms have been certified across Minnesota.
“With over half a million acres of farmland enrolled in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, farmers across Minnesota are continuing to do what they’ve always done: stepped up to do the hard work that needs to be done,” said Governor Tim Walz. “Water is one of our state’s most valuable resources and it’s our responsibility to continue protecting it through proven conservation practices and strong partnerships with our farmers.”
To date, Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality certified farms have added 1,557 new conservation practices, including over 52,000 acres of new cover crops, that protect Minnesota’s waters. Those new practices have kept over 34,000 tons of sediment out of Minnesota rivers while saving nearly 86,000 tons of soil and 41,000 pounds of phosphorous on farms each year. The conservation practices have also reduced nitrogen loss up to 49% and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30,000 tons per year.
The MAWQCP puts farmers in touch with local conservation district experts to identify and mitigate any risks their farm poses to water quality. Through the MAWQCP, the Stevens’ implemented prescribed grazing, managing pastureland and the animals on it, to become certified. They are also studying nitrogen optimization for corn and refining the effectiveness of cover crops in soybeans. Those changes will reduce water runoff and improve soil health.
“I participated in Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program because water quality is part of being a responsible farmer and steward of the land,” said Jon Stevens.
After being certified, each farm is deemed to be in compliance with new water quality laws and regulations for 10 years. Certification can also be used to comply with the state buffer law, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rewards certified farms by placing their applications first in line for feedlot permitting. Certified farmers and landowners can use their certification status to promote their operations as protective of water quality.
The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. After a successful pilot phase in 2014-2015, the program is now available to farmers and landowners statewide. To date, the program has certified over 770 farms totaling more than 500,000 acres. More information is available at MyLandMyLegacy.com.