IMGP2329 corrected (3)

Farms across Minnesota can now be certified for protecting water quality. Images by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture

A state program certifying farms for protecting water quality is transitioning from four pilot areas to a statewide initiative available to all Minnesota agricultural producers. The expansion of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is made possible through a 5-year, $9 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and legislation enacted earlier this year.

Farmers participate in MAWQCP on a voluntary basis. The program includes an online field assessment tool that enables farmers to identify water quality risks on their land and includes guidance to mitigate those risks. Certifiers conduct site visits to evaluate agricultural operations and perform whole-farm assessments, leading to the determination of best management practices for protecting water. Farmers who implement and maintain the approved practices become certified and receive regulatory certainty for 10 years.

A total of 47 farms so far have been certified across the state, adding conservation practices such as waterway buffers, tile intake protections, cover crops to control soil erosion, integrated pest management, conservation tillage, and improved nutrient management.

Designed by an advisory committee of independent stakeholders, the MAWQCP was implemented by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in partnership with state and federal agencies including local public, private, and nonprofit partners.