Water Resources

Ag Water Quality Certification Program Gets Financial Boost

Governor Mark Dayton announced Wednesday, Jan. 14, that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has provided Minnesota a $9 million investment in Greater Minnesota to establish the state’s Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) as a national demonstration project. The MAWQCP is a first-in-the-nation state-federal partnership Governor Dayton launched with Secretary Vilsack in 2012 that is working to enhance the quality of water in Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams by accelerating farmers’ voluntary adoption of on-farm conservation practices.

“This is popular with farmers, and is making important progress to improve the quality of water in our lakes, rivers, and streams,” Dayton said. “I thank President Obama, Secretary Vilsack, and farmers across our state for their continued commitment to this important effort.”

Minnesota’s Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program is designed to accelerate progress toward water quality goals in lakes, rivers and streams, while making conservation regulations more predictable and less cost-prohibitive for Minnesota farmers. Farmers enrolled in the program who implement and maintain approved farm management practices are certified by the state, and in turn are assured that their operations meet the state’s water quality goals and standards for a period of 10 years.

At a press conference, Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson and Walter Albarran, USDA’S Natural Resources Conservation Service acting state conservationist in Minnesota, highlighted the importance of this new federal funding. MAWQCP is one of 100 high-impact projects across all 50 states receiving more than $370 million as part of the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

“RCPP puts our partners in the driver’s seat,” Albarran said. “Projects are led locally and demonstrate the value of strong public-private partnerships that deliver solutions to tough natural resource challenges.”

“Governor Dayton’s commitment to this program has ensured its success,” Frederickson said. “I am pleased the successful design and launch of our water quality certification model has been recognized for demonstration and export to other states.”

The Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program has been piloted in four Minnesota watersheds: Whitewater River, Middle Sauk River, Elm Creek and Whiskey Creek watersheds. Just six months into piloting certifications, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has reported strong interest from Minnesota farmers who want to enroll in the program – the pilot project has already certified 28 agricultural operations representing over 10,000 acres of farmland– and interest among farmers continues to grow.

The initiative is the product of a state-federal partnership that includes the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.