Farmers across Minnesota are taking advantage of a program that celebrates and ensures protection of the state’s water resources.

With the help of a five-year $9 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and enacted legislation, the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is available to all agricultural producers statewide.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is working with the soil and water conservation district technical services areas to assist with statewide application of the program.

The program has certified thousands of acres and added hundreds of conservation practices to the landscape. These practices include adding buffers to waterways for improved water quality, planting cover crop to control soil erosion and improving nutrient management to protect water resources.

The water quality program was designed by an advisory committee of independent stakeholders and implemented by MDA in partnership with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Board of Water and Soil Resources, Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and local public, private and non-profit partners.

The program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Farmers and landowners who implement and maintain approved farm management practices are certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of 10 years.

The program certifies farmers and landowners for managing their land in a way that protects water quality through a whole-farm assessment that evaluates:

Physical field characteristics,

Nutrient management factors,

Tillage management factors,

Irrigation and tile drainage management, and

Conservation practices.

Producers interested in becoming certified also receive priority status for technical and financial assistance.

The program puts producers together with local resource professionals and the new on-line field assessment tool to determine where risks to water quality exist on their farm, and empowers them to fix those risks when they’re found.

Anyone interested in learning more about program, the assessment process or becoming certified should contact the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District office at 507-724-5261, ext. 3.

Jean Meiners is a technician with the Root River Soil and Water District, based in Caledonia. She can be reached at 507-724-5261 ext. 3.

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