The MDA regulates the use, storage, management, and licensing of fertilizers and soil/plant amendments. In addition, we work to provide resources and guidelines to help farmers maximize yield while also protecting our water resources.

Fertilizers are provided to promote plant growth. They provide in varying proportions the elements nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). These along with calcium, magnesium and sulfur are commonly referred to as "macronutrients". Macronutrients are consumed in large quantities by plants. Calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are provided to plants via the application of manure and lime. Ag lime is considered a "soil amendment" and is used to adjust the acidity of the soil.

To a much lesser degree, plants need boron, manganese, iron, zinc, copper, molybdenum, nickel and chlorine. These are referred to as "micronutrients". Most Minnesota soils naturally contain sufficient amounts of micronutrients for good plant growth.

Groundwater Protection Rule

The Groundwater Protection Rule minimizes potential sources of nitrate pollution to the state’s groundwater and protects our drinking water. The rule restricts fall application of nitrogen fertilizer in areas vulnerable to contamination, and it outlines steps to reduce the severity of the problem in areas where nitrate in public water supply wells is already elevated.

Anhydrous Ammonia

Anhydrous ammonia (NH3) is an efficient and widely used source of nitrogen fertilizer. It is relatively easy to apply and is readily available to producers. However, if not handled properly NH3 can be dangerous. Guidelines and rules are in place to keep the community and individuals safe.

Fertilizer Licensing

A fertilizer license is needed:

  • To sell, store, or distribute bulk fertilizers for use on agricultural lands.
  • To manufacture, blend or otherwise manipulate fertilizers. This includes the manipulation of fertilizers by means of a mobile mechanical unit.
  • To custom apply a fertilizer, soil amendment, and plant amendment product for compensation. This applies to applications to agricultural lands, aerial applications, lawns, plants, trees, shrubs, and interior landscapes.

In-state: A license is needed for each fixed location that sells, stores, distributes, custom applies, manufactures or blends fertilizer in Minnesota.

Out-of-state: Only one license is needed for all of the fixed locations located outside the state.

Fertilizer licenses expire December 31 of each year. Renewal applications must be postmarked before January 1 to avoid a late fee. See Fertilizer Licensing for more information.

Product Registration

Products labeled as a specialty fertilizer or soil and plant amendment must be registered with the MDA before they can be sold or distributed in the state.

  • Specialty fertilizers are products labeled and distributed for, but not limited to, the following uses: greenhouses, nurseries, home gardens, house plants, lawn fertilizer, shrubs, golf courses, municipal parks, and cemeteries.
  • Soil amendments are products intended to improve the structural, physical, or biological characteristics of the soil or modify organic matter at or near the soil surface.
  • Plant amendments are products applied to plants or seeds that is intended to improve germination, growth, yield, product quality, reproduction, flavor, or other desirable characteristics of plants.

Specialty fertilizers and soil/plant amendment product registrations expire December 31 of each year. Renewal applications must be postmarked before January 1 to avoid a late fee. See Specialty Fertilizer Registration, or Soil and Plant Amendment Product Registration for more information.

Fertilizer Storage Permits

A bulk fertilizer storage or an anhydrous ammonia storage permit is required before you begin constructing a new bulk storage facility whether on existing or new property, or when you substantially modify an existing permitted bulk storage facility.

Fertilizer use & Sales reports

Our agency reports the amount of registered fertilizer product sold in the state and we conduct nutrient management surveys to determine how fertilizer was used in the state each year. In addition there are a number of programs and resources available to assist with nitrogen management.

Guidelines/tools to help protect groundwater

The placement and timing of a fertilizer application (manure or inorganic) as well as the rate and source of fertilizer can impact crop yield and water quality. The following programs and tools were designed to help determine the best strategy to enhance yield and stewardship.

Nutrient Management Initiative
Nitrogen Fertilizer Best Management Practices
Certified soil testing laboratories
Certified manure testing laboratories
Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP)
Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast
Soil temperature network

Water Monitoring

There is an extensive body of research documenting that nitrate from nitrogen fertilizer can leach below the root zone and migrate to groundwater. Our agency works with local units of government and private well owners to monitor nitrate in drinking water wells. Our emphasis is placed on those areas of the state where groundwater is most vulnerable.

Clean Water Fund Programs

The MDA is using Clean Water Fund dollars to support a variety of programs, projects and activities. Funds are used to broaden our understanding of water quality and water related issues. Projects include on-farm and academic research, water monitoring and funding mechanisms to assist farmers.

Farmer-led soil fertility research (AFREC)

The Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council (AFREC) offers funding to advance soil fertilizer research, technology development and education. Funds are awarded through a Request for Proposal process.