MN Ag Water Quality Certification Program awards 500 endorsements to recognize outstanding farmers

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) has awarded 500 endorsements, in addition to 10-year certification, to farmers and landowners across the state.

There are currently five MAWQCP endorsements. The integrated pest management, soil health and wildlife endorsements have been available since 2019. The irrigation water management endorsement and the Climate Smart endorsement have been available since 2022.

“We recognize that many conservation practices targeting water quality also have benefits for other conservation goals, such as soil health and wildlife protection,” said Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. “These Ag Water Quality Certification endorsements celebrate the certified producers who are going above and beyond to implement conservation on their farms, and I congratulate those who have received these endorsements for their outstanding work.”

The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) has been a staunch supporter of the MAWQCP since its statewide launch in 2015. Numerous farmer leaders from both MSGA and the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council have enrolled in the program, helping to spread the word of the program’s benefits. The MAWQCP is also a longtime supporter of MN Ag Expo and Soybean Business, and was profiled in the November-December 2023 cover story of MSGA’s official magazine.

“For the time and effort, it’s very worthwhile,” Council Director Bill Zurn said. “This program is proving to the United States and the world that we’re doing good, sustainable and renewable practices here in Minnesota.”

Bill Zurn’s operation in Callaway enrolled in MDA’s MAWQCP in 2020.

In August 2023, MSGA President Bob Worth hosted a bipartisan event with Rep. Michelle Fischbach and Commissioner Petersen at his Lake Benton farm to promote his enrollment.

“The biggest benefit is making sure the soil is better than when I took the farm over,” Worth said. “This program is going to benefit the entire state of Minnesota.”

The MAWQCP is a voluntary program for farmers and landowners that protects the state’s water resources. To date, Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality certified farms have added nearly 2,900 new conservation practices that protect Minnesota’s waters. Those new practices have kept over 48,000 tons of sediment out of Minnesota rivers while saving 144,000 tons of soil and 60,000 pounds of phosphorous on farms each year. The conservation practices have also reduced nitrogen loss up to 49% and cut greenhouse gas emissions by over 52,500 tons per year.

The MAWQCP partnered with various non-profit organizations, such as Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition, and state agencies to develop the endorsements.

Meadowbrook Dairy, Inc. was the first farm to achieve all five endorsements through the Ag Water Quality Certification Program. Meadowbrook Dairy, Inc. is a fifth-generation farm in Stearns County owned and operated by the Udermann family, including John, his sons Alex and Jake, and Alex’s wife, Krissy. All are employed full time on the farm and, with the help of John’s wife, Mary Lou, together they raise 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans, small grains, alfalfa, along with an 80-cow dairy and 300 feeder steers.

“Signing up and going through the process of water quality certification and the endorsements gave our farm direction and assistance to meet the conservation goals we had set for ourselves,” said Alex Udermann. “It clearly laid out a solid foundation to learn, to improve, and to grow on. We really wanted to show our local community of Sartell that our farm is doing everything we can to do to improve water quality on the acres we farm and taking care of the soil in a sustainable and regenerative way.”

MAWQCP Endorsements:

  • The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Endorsement recognizes producers who take an intentional, proactive and multi-faceted approach to pest management and follow an IPM plan developed by a trained agronomist or person with appropriate credentials.
  • The Soil Health Endorsement recognizes producers who manage their operation in accordance with the five core principles of soil health: minimize disturbance, keep the soil covered, maintain a living root, maximize diversity and integrate livestock.
  • The Wildlife Endorsement recognizes producers who implement intentional, purposeful actions with wildlife benefits in mind including integrated pest management, species diversity, preservation of food sources and preservation of nesting cover.
  • The Climate Smart Farm Endorsement recognizes producers who implement practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon, and is an opportunity to explore practices that qualify for agricultural carbon markets. Producers who achieve this endorsement are eligible for a $1,000 payment.
  • The Irrigation Water Management Endorsement recognizes producers who use Irrigation Water Management and have completed the Minnesota Irrigator Program offered by the U of M.

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