By Anne Koliha, Technician
When it comes to soil health and water quality, farmers have always been some of the most conscientious and concerned people. This is due to their deep, hands-on connections with soil, water, and nature. Over the years, great strides have been made in recognizing and improving soil health and water quality, due partially to the partnerships developed between the farmers, Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) and other government agencies. But like most things, there is always room for improvement and farmers continue to be an important part of the research and work towards these goals.
Leading the way to improvements in land practices and water quality is the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP), a program through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). The MAWQCP 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.
Since the program began in 2014, the MAWQCP has certified over 800 farms totaling nearly 550,000 acres and farmers have installed over 1,700 new conservation practices across Minnesota as part of the program. The Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program is designed to accelerate progress toward water quality goals in our state’s lakes, river, and streams, while making conservation regulations more predictable and less cost-prohibitive for the state’s farmers.
The MAWQCP program not only shows recognition for all the hard work farmers do to protect the environment, but also gives the farmers certainty that they will be in compliance with any new water quality regulations. It also provides cost-share funding for conservation practices to help farmers achieve water quality certification. Also, through the program the public receives assurance that certified producers are using conservation practices to protect Minnesota’s waters.
Contact Fillmore SWCD’s Anne Koliha at email@example.com or (507) 765-3878, ext. 123 for more information on the MN Ag Water Quality Certification Program application process with the MDA.