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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Water Protection > Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program > Minutes and Agendas > March 9, 2016 Meeting Minutes

March 9, 2016 Meeting Minutes


Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program

Location: 50 Sherburne Ave, St. Paul, MN  55155

(Copy of the powerpoint presentation is available upon request to mda.mawqcp@state.mn.us)

Committee members attending were:

  • Joe Smentek, MN Soybean Growers Association
  • Dean Fairchild, Mosaic
  • Tony Thompson, Willow Lake Farm
  • Kirby Hettver, Hettver Farms
  • Duane Bakke, Fillmore County
  • Doug Albin, Yellow Medicine County Corn Growers
  • Dennis Berglund, Centrol Crop Consulting
  • Nate Collins, Swift County Farm Bureau
  • Darrel Gerber, The Freshwater Society 

Guests:

  • Gary Wertish, Minnesota Farmers Union
  • Michelle Medina, Minnesota Farmers Union
  • Bill Bond, MN Crop Production Retailers
  • Mark Root, Area Certification Specialist, Winona County SWCD
  • Dr. Karlyn Eckman, University of Minnesota

Staff:

  • Brad Redlin, Program Manager
  • Bill Fitzgerald, Field Operations and Training Coordinator
  • Peter Gillitzer, Assessment and Research Coordinator
  • Craig McDonnell, Program Development Specialist
  • Marcie Weinandt, Program Coordinator

Brad Redlin reviewed the meeting objectives of updating the advisory committee on the MAWQCP program elements, discussing the Advisory Committee interview report and recommendations, and discussing the role of the Advisory Committee going forward. Appointments to the MAWQCP Advisory Committee sunset every two years. In 2016 all committee appointments will sunset on June 30, 2016 and the MAWQCP is statutorily obligated to reopen the application process. All current members are invited to apply to be on the 2016-2018 MAWQCP Advisory Committee. The sunsetting of the Advisory Committee’s current term also provides an opportunity to review and revise the operation of the Advisory Committee.

He asked for additional agenda items. There were none presented.

Certification Program Operations Update: Bill Fitzgerald reported to the committee on the current status of the statewide regional structure and how program staff are delivering the MAWQCP to producers. These staff members have received in-depth training over the past six months and will continue to do so. As of the meeting date, 104 producers have been certified covering 59,372 acres and 226 new best management practices have been generated as a result of the MAWQCP.

Duane Bakke, Advisory Committee member and MAWQCP-certified producer commented on his certification process, the general program and answered question from the committee.  Inquiries included:

Certification Program Pilot Project and Statewide Update: Marcie Weinandt, MAWQCP Program Coordinator reported on the completion of the pilot phase and the expansion to a statewide program.  The majority of the current MAWQCP producers are a result of the over 18 months of work during the pilot, indicating that the certification process is thorough and is completed over time.  Forty-eight percent of the pilot funding was spent on direct contact and assessments with the producer.  The balance was used for program development, administration and staff training. The final action for the pilots is the completion of the second round of KAP surveys. Surveys have been mailed and a final report will be delivered by Dr. Eckman by June 30, 2016.

Seven contracts are now in place with local fiscal agents for the statewide program and deliverables and spending is occurring as budgeted and per the USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program. All of the fiscal agents are SWCDs that are taking leadership in their regions. Additionally, CWF dollars were granted to all SWCD through a Promotion Grant. We are expecting a total of 700 applications prior to July 1, 2016 as deliverable for this grant.

Promotion of the program by MAWQCP partners is invaluable. Advisory committee member and MN Soybean Association representative, Joe Smentek, reported on the promotion that his organization is conducting. A series of articles in the MN Soybean magazine will follow a soybean producer as he pursues certification.

Risk Assessment Tool: Peter Gillitzer, Assessment and Research Coordinator and Dean Fairchild, Advisory Committee member and representative of the MN Crop Production Retailers, reported on the status of the engagement of others to promote the program and use the assessment tool. To date, local SWCD, NRCS, community businesses and crop advisors have been used to promote the Certification program. Another important institution with potential access to producers are co-op agronomists, fertilizer/input salesmen, ag-chem dealers; all members of the Minnesota Crop Production Retailers.

MCPR is currently undertaking an initiative within their organization to promote practices that improve agronomic performance, profitability environmental sustainability and track and document these practices using an index tool and database.  There is an opportunity for MCPR and Certification to collaborate that includes; providing a pipeline from MCPR program to Certification, vice versa, assisting with MCPR information technology needs, and improving Certification nutrient management assessment in terms of delivery and metrics.

Advisory Committee Interview Report:  Dr. Karlyn Eckman, U of M, conducted 14 interviews with current and past advisory committee members individually between November 2015 and January 2016. A checklist of questions was developed with MDA staff and the interviews were informal, conversational and confidential. The purpose of the interviews was to gather feedback on the role and function of the Advisory Committee, given the legislative mandate to scale up the program.

Dr. Eckman noted that there was impressive expertise, knowledge and energy on part of each committee member. There was a sense that advisory committee is capable of doing more, and willing to do so. The full report was made available to committee members prior to the meeting. The afternoon session of the committee meeting was reserved for discussion of the report.

Before a break for lunch, Duane Bakke was recognized as the first advisory committee member to be certified.

The meeting reconvened and Dr. Eckman facilitated an hour long discussion regarding the items raised in the interviews as well as any additional comments or concerns.  Advisory committee comments and items to be discussed at the 2016-2018 Advisory Committee retreat, which will occur in summer 2016, include:

What is the market value of the MAWQCP/ how do we make the case for economic benefits?

  • Program credibility/data privacy
  • Results and evaluation metrics
  • Defining certainty
  • Expanding the advisory committee to include more diversity in membership; i.e. food processors, absentee landowners, livestock producers and committee membership rotation

Meeting ended at 2:45 p.m.