May 11, 2023

Farmers enrolled in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) have higher profits than non-certified farms, according to a recent study by the Minnesota State Agricultural Centers of Excellence. This marks the fourth year of data highlighting improved financial outcomes.

The “Influence of Intensified Environmental Practices on Farm Profitability” study examined financial and crop production information from farmers enrolled in the Minnesota State Farm Business Management education program. The 101 MAWQCP farms in the study saw 2022 net farm income an average of more than $23,500 or 7.5% higher than non-certified farms. Looking at four years of data, the average income for MAWQCP farms was $16,000 - $40,000 higher. Other key financial metrics are also better for those enrolled in the MAWQCP, such as debt-to-asset ratios and operating expense ratios.

The four years of data serve as an indicator of a positive return on investment for whole-farm conservation management that farmers implement to become certified.

“For four years now, we see that farm operations in the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program have, on average, better economic outcomes on top of the known environmental benefits,” said Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. “There are many advantages to the MAWQCP, and I encourage all farmers and landowners to look into certifying their land and contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District for more information.”

“Minnesota Farm Business Management is proud to support farmers who are water quality certified and continue to demonstrate profitability compared to their peers,” said Keith Olander, Executive Director of AgCentric, and Agricultural Partnerships. “The water quality certified cohort sets a standard for other environmental enhancements to be implemented on-farm through a data supported process as farmers continue to improve their soil health while protecting their economic viability.”

To find details on the economic study, visit:

The MAWQCP puts farmers in touch with local conservation district experts to identify and mitigate any risks their farm poses to water quality on a field-by-field basis. 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 program’s statewide launch in 2016, 1,326 farms totaling nearly 970,000 acres have been certified across Minnesota. Farms have added over 2,615 new conservation practices, which protect Minnesota’s waters. Those new practices help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 50,000 metric tons each year.

Farmers and landowners interested in becoming water quality certified can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District or visit


Media Contact
Allen Sommerfeld, MDA Communications