Over 200,000 acres of Minnesota farmland is now enrolled in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). The program marked the milestone today at Dave Lochen’s Shore Acres Farm near Kimball in Stearns County. Shore Acres Farm is a beef cattle and diversified crop operation growing seed and sweet corn, soybeans, and wheat.
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 under Governor Mark Dayton in 2014, 365 farms have been certified across Minnesota.
“The Lochens and hundreds of other farm families across Minnesota have seen the value of the Ag Water Quality Certification Program, and we applaud them for their efforts to protect Minnesota ground and surface waters,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “We can see measured results that will benefit generations to come.”
To date, Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality certified farms have added 628 new conservation practices that protect Minnesota’s waters. Those new practices have kept over 12.1 million pounds of sediment out of Minnesota rivers while saving nearly 17.4 million pounds of soil and 7,414 pounds of phosphorous on farms each year. Those numbers will increase as more landowners enroll in the program.
The MAWQCP puts farmers in touch with local conservation experts to identify and mitigate any risks their farm poses to water quality. Through the MAWQCP, Lochen worked with Mark Lefebvre from the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to look for ways he could continue to protect Minnesota’s water resources.
“I would recommend it to others—there is some paperwork, but nothing too overbearing,” said Lochen. “It was good for me because a lot of the changes that I needed to make to qualify fit in with what I was already planning to do.”
As part of his certification, Lochen has made changes to fertility, reduced some tillage practices, and added cover crops. Those changes will reduce water runoff and improve soil health.
“Dave Lochen is a prime example how the MAWQCP can help farmers identify water quality risks in their farming operation and make continuous improvements,” said Mark Lefebvre. “We were able to identify practices like cover crops and grassed waterways and making refinements in nutrient management that made an impact to Dave’s farming operation.”
In cooperation with Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) across the state, the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program became available statewide in 2015. After being certified, each farm is deemed to be in compliance with new water quality laws and regulations for 10 years. Certification is also an approved practice farmers can use 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 businesses as protective of water quality.
Those interested in the program can contact their local SWCD office or visit MyLandMyLegacy.com.
Allen Sommerfeld, MDA Communications