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Water quality certification expands to Minnesota farms: Crow Wing SWCD accepting applicants

Farmers across Minnesota are taking advantage of a state program that celebrates and ensures protection of the state's water resources. With the help of a five-year, $9 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and legislation enacted...

Farmers across Minnesota are taking advantage of a state program that celebrates and ensures protection of the state's water resources.

With the help of a five-year, $9 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and legislation enacted earlier this year, the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is formally transitioning from four pilot areas to being available to any agricultural producer statewide.

The MAWQCP certifies farmers and landowners for managing their land in a way that protects water quality through a whole-farm assessment that evaluates physical field characteristics, nutrient management factors, tillage management factors, pest management factors, irrigation and tile drainage management and conservation practices.

Producers interested in becoming certified also receive priority status for technical and financial assistance if certified. For farmers interested, EQIP applications at NRCS for designated MAWQCP funds need to be signed by April 15 for this year.

MAWQCP was designed by an advisory committee of independent stakeholders and implemented by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, and local public, private and nonprofit partners.

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The program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect water. Farmers and landowners who implement and maintain approved farm management practices are certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for 10 years.

The program puts producers together with local professionals and the new online field assessment tool to determine where risks to water quality exist on their farm, and empowers them to fix those risks when they're found, at the same avoiding the expense, time and trouble of applying half-measures or implementing misplaced actions.

Anyone interested in learning more about MAWQCP, the assessment process or becoming certified should contact Sheila Carleton at the Crow Wing SWCD at 218-828-6197 or Sheila.carleton@crowwingswcd.org . Those living outside of Crow Wing County should contact their SWCD office.

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