MN Ag Water Quality Certification

MN Ag Water Quality Certification Program Expanding

For Third Street Brewhouse, which draws its water from the Sauk River Watershed, the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a big deal. The brewery needs clean water to make quality beer.

Third Street Brewhouse hosted representatives from the Minnesota Department of Ag, members of the MAWQCP advisory board, a representative from Gold’n Plump and other watershed stakeholders Tuesday in Cold Spring, Minn.

The event served as a kick-off to the MAWQCP expanding past the pilot watershed into west-central Minnesota. When MAWQCP launched, the program focused on the Middle Sauk River Watershed as well as Whitewater River Watershed in Southeastern Minnesota, the Whiskey Creek Watershed in the west central and Elm Creek Watershed in the southern portion of the state.

“We wanted to make sure this was a partnership effort, not a one-size-fits-all approach,” said MDA Assistant Commissioner Matt Wohlman. “We want to work with farmers, city businesses and other stakeholders to make this a successful program.”

In Cold Springs, city businesses include Third Street Brewhouse, Gold’n Plump and a slew of other businesses from bakeries to restaurants.

Gold’n Plump Sustainability Manager Paul Helgeson told the attendees at Tuesday’s event that his company, based out of Cold Spring, relies on water for daily operations at the plant.

“We are also dependent on this water for growing the feed for our chickens, too.”

Gold’n Plump, which has partnered with the Environmental Initiative’s Field Stewards program that rewards commodity crop farmers for engaging in environmental stewardship on their farms and helps food companies address the sustainability concerns of their customers.

Helgeson said that Gold’n Plump is looking to collaborate with certification program through the Field Stewards program to help both be successful. He says providing a more sustainable product is important to Gold’n Plump and its customers.

Several farmers were also honored for becoming certified in the program, some of whom spoke about their experiences.

Former Minnesota Corn Growers Association President John Mages, who farms near Belgrade, Minn., was honest in his assessment of the program.

“We had to make a few changes with our practices,” he said. “This spring we had to put in four miles of buffers, and we had a few things to do with tillage and a few things with pest management. Overall, it was things that we wanted to do anyway, and things that made sense for our farm.”

Mages said he thinks it can be hard to get farmers involved if they don’t feel it is worth their while.

“I think this is a program we should look at, especially if you aren’t doing anything, and it is something farmers should be proud of,” he said.

Don Eikmeier, who farms near Rockville and not too far from the Sauk River, told attendees that he wants his topsoil to stay put. He said healthier soil means cleaner water.

“I used to teach agriculture and I took my students out to a delta on the Sauk River and told them that’s my top soil,” he said. “I took them to county roads where my soil ran off my fields and told them ‘I created that.’ Then I took them out to my farm and showed them what I was doing to fix the problem.”

Another certified farmer, Dan Eveslage from Greenwald, stated it simply.

“Most of the stuff they made me do saves me money,” he said.

As part of Third Street Brewhouse’s promotion of the MAWQCP, the Brewhouse will give a six-pack of Rise to the Top Cream Ale to each farmer who is certified.

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of 10 years.

To learn more about MAWQCP visit http://www.mda.state.mn.us/awqcp.