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Lofty conservation goal is set

December 21, 2018

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Agricultural has set a lofty goal for its fledgling Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program: to more than double the number of acres enrolled in it by the end of 2019.

Currently, 680 producers have just shy of 450,000 acres enrolled in the voluntary conservation program. Ag officials would like to see that number reach 1 million acres in the next year.

Brad Redlin, who works in the ag department’s pesticide and fertilizer management division, said the goal isn’t only attainable, but worthwhile.

So far, the program has:

• Kept more than 48.1 million pounds of sediment out of Minnesota rivers.

• Saved 122 million pounds of soil and 28,291 pounds of phosphorous on farms.

• Reduced nitrogen losses by up to 49 percent.

• Added more than 1,300 conservation practices, including such things as grassed waterways, contour buffer strips, diversion drainage and biomass planting.

“This program’s positive impacts will endure far beyond this current administration, and significantly improve our state’s water quality for generations to come,” Gov. Mark Dayton said.

Water quality touches every Minnesotan and “we all need to work together to help protect Minnesota’s ground and surface water,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “The Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program, along with our partners, are helping family farms ensure a legacy of sustainability that will benefit generations to come.”

Landowners interested in program can contact their local county Soil and Water Conversation office, Redlin said. “Most of those conservation districts can do the initial assessment work during the certification process. We keep it as local as we can possibly drive it.”

Redlin said each operation seeking certification is unique, with different needs and different problem areas that need to be addressed.

“It’s going to vary for every farm, as you could well guess,” Redlin said. Certification “could be rather fast — as little as a couple of weeks for motivated folks. There have been some that have stretched beyond a year. And we are OK with that.

“It’s producers taking the time to review their entire operation, essentially. They are assessing potential risks and then finding ways to address those risks. We want to make sure that we augment and not interfere in anything they are trying positive with their operation”

Redlin said financial assistance for a water-quality fix is often available through a variety of state and federal programs.

Once accepted into Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, farmers are cetified to be compliant with new water quality laws and regulations for 10 years. A random review process during that decade makes sure the measures are working .

Redlin is confident the 1 million acre-goal will be met.

“We have been on a steadily increasing pace,” Redlin said. “So we feel it is a realistic, attainable goal. “

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