Governor Tim Walz set a new goal of enrolling one million acres by the end of 2022 in a voluntary agricultural program that protects the state’s water resources.
Since the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program’s inception in 2014, 977 farms totaling over 685,000 acres have been certified across Minnesota, according to a news release.
“This is a key effort to ensure our lakes, rivers, and drinking water are protected for future generations,” Walz said in the release. “Minnesota’s natural resources are a unique part of our state and culture. Farmers understand this. They are stewards of our land and water and are already helping protect these resources.”
According to the release, Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality certified farms have:
- added 2,000 new conservation practices;
- added 110,000 acres of new cover crops;
- kept over 38,000 tons of sediment out of Minnesota rivers;
- saved nearly 108,000 tons of soil on farms yearly;
- saved 48,000 pounds of phosphorous on farms yearly;
- reduced nitrogen loss up to 49%;
- cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 39,000 tons yearly.
The MAWQCP puts farmers in touch with local conservation district experts to identify and mitigate any risks their farm poses to water quality. 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, as stated in the release.
There are also endorsements available to water quality certified producers for soil health, integrated pest management and wildlife. These endorsements celebrate farmers and landowners who are going above and beyond to implement conservation efforts on their land.
According to a study by AgCentric, a Minnesota State program, the average net income of ag water quality certified farms is 26% higher, or $19,000 more per year, than non-certified farms, according to the release. Other key financial metrics are also improved, such as debt-to-asset ratios and operating expense ratios. The study also indicated increased yield for corn, soybeans and alfalfa on certified land.
Farmers and landowners interested in becoming water quality certified can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District or visit MyLandMyLegacy.com.
- Wadena SWCD: 218-632-4201
- East Otter Tail SWCD: at 218-346-9105