The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) has reached the milestone of enrolling 1,000 farmers and landowners from across the state. Now, more than 715,000 acres of land are helping to protect the state’s water resources.
“Water quality is important to all Minnesotans, especially those that care for the land, and we want to thank everyone that has stepped up to protect and restore our state’s lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater through the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. “We can be assured these certified farmers are managing their operations to protect water quality now and into the future.”
The MAWQCP puts farmers in touch with local conservation district experts to identify and mitigate any risks their farm poses to water quality. Producers going through the certification process have priority access to financial assistance. After being certified, each farm is deemed in compliance with new water quality laws and regulations for 10 years.
Since the start of the program in 2014, the Ag Water Quality Certification Program has:
- Added more than 2,050 new conservation practices
- Kept near 38,500 tons of sediment out of Minnesota rivers
- Saved 110,000 tons of soil and 48,500 pounds of phosphorous on farms
- Reduced nitrogen losses by up to 49 percent
- Reduced the equivalent of over 39,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year
There are also extra endorsements available to water quality certified producers for soil health, integrated pest management, and wildlife. These endorsements celebrate farmers and landowners who are going above and beyond to implement conservation efforts on their land.
The program is on target to meet Governor Tim Walz’s goal of enrolling one million acres by the end of 2022.
Farmers and landowners interested in becoming water quality certified can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District or visit MyLandMyLegacy.com.
About the 1,000 Certified Farmers and Landowners
The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is recognizing five farmers from across the state that pushed the program to the 1,000-enrollee milestone.
Martin Berg has 119 acres of pasture and operates the only remaining dairy in Aitkin County. Berg has a prescribed grazing plan and is very interested in using regenerative agriculture practices to leverage government funds to provide local products to food deserts. Berg is also an academic with education in livestock genetics. He and his wife have done genetic research in the U.S. and New Zealand.
“I am working to incorporate regenerative agriculture practices on my farm and becoming water quality certified aligns with my goals and has provided me with valuable technical assistance.” – Martin Berg
Ron Frank farms 566 acres and practices no-till and strip-till and has advanced nutrient management. With funding assistance from a MAWQCP supplemental grant, Frank will be installing two new grassed waterways. He also has plans to try cover crops. Ron Frank cares about supporting the next generation of farmers and works closely with his nephew. He is also invested in his community and is active with the Minnesota Farm Bureau, various county committees, the local Lions Club, and local government.
“One of the reasons I became certified is to reinforce our ongoing effort to improve and maintain water and soil quality for future generations. This has always been a focus, even when my dad farmed the land.” – Ron Frank
Duane and Doug Possail and their nephew farm 2,430 combined acres of corn and soybeans, though each farm is their own entity. The Possails are beginning to implement no-till and cover crops on some acres through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Through certification, they agreed to reduce tillage on several fields, reduce phosphorus rates, use a nitrogen stabilizer with fall applications, implement critical area plantings, and close open tile intakes.
“Possail Farms has worked diligently with our local Soil and Water District in Lincoln County for generations to do what we can to improve our land by creating berms, waterways, windbreaks, buffer strips, CRP, and cover crops. We chose to participate in the Water Quality Certification Program because we strongly believe that it is our duty, as landowners, to preserve our land and to improve our environment. Our goal is to invest time, energy, and resources into our land to make it better for the future of agriculture.” – Duane Possail
(Pictured: Duane and Doug Possail)
Stencel Farms, Inc. operates 1,023 acres of corn and soybeans in a ridge-till system. Todd Stencel also practices advanced nutrient management for both nitrogen and phosphorus. Through certification, he agreed to mulch tillage (greater than 30% residue after planting) and closed several open tile intakes. Stencel is also a Waseca Soil and Water Conservation District board member and a Farm Business Management instructor at South Central College.
“Being water quality certified will give me access to new cost share opportunities on my farm.” – Todd Stencel
Greg and Rebecca Symanietz farm 135 acres of owned and rented cropland including corn, soybeans, and alfalfa with an oats nurse crop. They also operate a 40 cow/calf pair beef herd. Greg Symanietz recently made improvements to his grazing system by adding fencing, an armored cattle lane, and a watering system with a heavy use area protection surrounding it. These practices will allow him to rotationally graze his cattle on over 60 acres of pasture, as well as improve his pasture’s productivity, herd health, and protect sensitive areas. He is also planning to plant a winter cereal rye cover crop on his corn and soybean acres to improve soil health, reduce soil erosion, and improve water quality.
“I got started with the program because I knew I wanted to make changes for my farming goals. The program has given me good feedback and information while allowing me to make small slow adjustments over time.” – Greg Symanietz
(Pictured: Greg Symanietz and his son Charlie Symanietz)
About the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program
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. The program is available to farmers and landowners statewide.
Allen Sommerfeld, MDA Communications