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Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program’

Field Stewards in the Fast Lane

October 3rd, 2017

Last week, the Field Stewards program launched what we are calling the “Field Stewards Roadshow”– a series of meetings around the state with small and medium-sized food companies and conservation leaders.

We believe that the Field Stewards model can have a greater impact than what we previously thought, so we want to widen our net to include not only large companies like Pilgrim’s Pride, but also smaller and mid-size food companies who are maybe just starting their sustainability journey. In short, Field Stewards can help a lot of businesses with a variety of crops beyond just corn and soybeans.

Learning from these companies is also a big part of the Roadshow. We want to know about the successes and challenges each organization has faced in their sustainability efforts, and how Field Stewards can help businesses reach new consumer and market segments concerned about sustainability.

FIRST DAY ON THE ROAD

Our first stop was an informative one– a meeting with Mike Lorentz of Lorentz Meats, a meat processor based in Cannon Falls, Minnesota and a leader in sustainably raised, humanely slaughtered beef. It is probably the only processor in the country to have a Wendell Berry quote up on the wall greeting visitors, and was one of the first to begin to think holistically about their product.

From there, we went to Northfield and met with the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, discussing some of the interesting work they are doing to engage food companies in the watershed in helping to disseminate information about cover crops to farmers growing peas and other specialty crops– improving water quality while building a more resilient supply chain.

Finally, we ended our day in Winona with the Whitewater River Watershed Project. As the first in Minnesota to form a farmer-led council to address water quality issues, this area was also one of the pilot areas in the state for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program— the basis for Field Stewards certification in Minnesota.

This was a successful first trip, and I look forward to getting out to Greater Minnesota again to learn how companies and conservation groups are incentivizing sustainability on agricultural lands.

If you have any questions, want more information on Field Stewards, or want us to come speak to your business, feel free to send me an email at gbohrer@en-in.org or call me at 612-334-3388 ext. 8112.

Greg Bohrer

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

MAWQCP: Protecting Agricultural Water Quality Through Certification and Collaboration

July 6th, 2016

All Minnesotans want access to clean water and all Minnesota farmers want clean water to be part of their legacy.

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a new, voluntary, state-federal program that offers Minnesota’s farmers the chance to certify their legacy of stewardship and protect the Land of 10,000 Lakes’ greatest natural resource. After a brief pilot phase, MAWQCP went statewide in July 2015. Since then, the program has certified 198 farms and we just recently celebrated a 100,000-acre milestone for the program.

The program’s unique structure is crucial to its success. MAWQCP is delivered in partnership with Minnesota’s 89 Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) and it’s easy for farmers and landowners to navigate. Minnesota’s SWCDs are trusted partners and frequent collaborators among the state’s farmers. The process for getting certified is straightforward and personalized – all a farmer needs to do to get started is contact their local SWCD.family next to farmstead sign

There are four steps to the water quality certification process:

  • Assessment – a certification specialist conducts an assessment of a farm’s current risk to water quality on a field-by-field basis using an online tool;
  • Collaboration – the certification specialist meets with the farmer to go over the results of the baseline assessment and collaborates on a plan for mitigating any risks to water identified in the assessment;
  • Verification – the certification specialist conducts a field verification to ensure all risks to water quality have been treated, or that a plan is in place to address the risk;
  • Ongoing Support – the certification specialist and farmer stay in touch as the farmer continues to make improvements and changes.

The process is not one-size fits all. When risks to water quality are identified, farmers are eligible to receive priority technical and financial assistance to make the improvements that make the most sense, economically and environmentally, for their operation. Once they are certified, farmers and landowners receive regulatory certainty and are deemed to be in compliance with any new water quality laws or rules for 10 years.

Traditionally, conservation has been delivered in a piecemeal fashion with a farmer implementing one conservation practice at a time. While individual practices can provide real environmental benefits, they often don’t treat all the risks to water quality on a farm all at once. MAWQCP’s model of conservation delivery overcomes this shortfall. The program works in collaboration with farmers and addresses risks to water quality for every field and every crop on their operations. This field-by-field, crop-by-crop methodology allows small acts of conservation to aggregate quickly, creating meaningful water quality benefits for all Minnesotans.

To date, the program has generated more than 300 new conservation practices, from cover crops to improved nutrient management that are annually:

  • Stopping 7.7 million pounds of sediment from entering our waters,
  • Preventing more than 4,700 pounds of phosphorus from entering our lakes and streams, and
  • Keeping more than 10 million pounds of soil where it belongs, in Minnesota fields.

As more farmers learn about the program and become certified, its positive impact on Minnesota will continue to grow. MAWQCP will help ensure Minnesota’s farms and waters can prosper together, which is a legacy all Minnesotans can be proud of.

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A note from Environmental Initiative:

We’ve partnered with MAWQCP through our Field Stewards program. Farmers who are certified through MAWQCP (currently only in Stearns County) are eligible to receive a per acre payment for their conservation practices by enrolling in Field Stewards. This partnership with MAWQCP avoids duplicate certification standards and ensures farmers are recognized and rewarded for their conservation efforts. Learn more about Field Stewards »

MAWQCP is a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Learn more about MAWQCP »

POSTED BY:

Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program Manager, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

2015 Environmental Initiative Award Winnners Announced

May 22nd, 2015

I’m excited to announce the winners of the 2015 Environmental Initiative Awards. For those of you who attended the event, thank you for spending the evening with us to celebrate. We lucked out again with spectacular weather and even better company. On behalf of Environmental Initiative I’d like to extend a special thanks to Tom Weber from MPR News for serving as the evening’s emcee.

And, be sure to check out some of the fantastic photos, tweets, and posts that were shared here.
(Great work with the table selfies, everybody!)

Congratulations to this year’s group of winning projects, and to the finalists, whose work is truly inspiring and we’re honored to share:

2015 PARTNERSHIP OF THE YEAR
Manston Slough Restoration »

COMMUNITY ACTION
Morris Engaged: Planning and Action for Climate Resilience »

ENERGY & CLIMATE
Project Standing Sun »

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
Master Water Stewards »

FOOD STEWARDSHIP
Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program »

NATURAL RESOURCES
Manston Slough Restoration »

SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS
Tiny Diner »

The Environmental Initiative Awards annually honor innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by harnessing the power of partnership. From large statewide efforts to small-scale locally based projects, many of Minnesota’s most innovative environmental efforts have succeeded as a result of collaboration. Learn more »

Andrea Robbins

POSTED BY:

Director, Engagement and Systems
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