Increasing pollution levels in Minnesota lakes and streams. Changing precipitation patterns. Aging infrastructure across the state. Invasive species. These are all challenges to protecting water quality in Minnesota.
But the need to bridge the social divide between ag and urban sectors — what one participant described as “breach the silos” — was the most talked-about topic at a forum held in 2019 and attended by more than 200 people.
The inaugural Minnesota River Basin Ag-Urban Partnership Forum sparked many ideas on how to bridge that divide. To keep the conversation and momentum going, several partners are holding a follow-up forum Dec. 16. In keeping with the state guidelines for responding to COVID-19, the forum will be held via Webex. This online option means the forum can expand to all of Minnesota.
Who should attend
The forum is open to ag and urban partners looking for ideas and information on how to develop and strengthen relationships for working together to improve the water quality of Minnesota lakes and streams. These include:
- Elected officials
- Municipal employees
- Tribal leaders
- Commodity groups
- Watershed professionals
- Advocacy groups
- Lake associations
- Private citizens
Details for the 2020 Ag-Urban Partnership Forum on Water Quality
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 16
Time: 9 a.m. – noon
Registration: Go to https://minnesota.webex.com/minnesota/k2/j.php?MTID=t56930dd7c30f0b3526ba4bf88c73c02a to obtain meeting access information. (Note: Start time is posted as 8:45 a.m. in hopes that participants will log in early. The end time is posted as 1 p.m. in case the event runs past noon, but the plan is to wrap up by noon.)
Desired event outcomes:
- Learn from innovative examples of Ag-Urban collaboration.
- Listen to stories about groups that have broken down barriers and are working together.
- Hear strategies on how to move partnerships forward within existing planning frameworks.
- Recognize successful partnerships.
- Inspire additional partnerships.
Welcome: Thom Petersen, Minnesota agriculture commissioner, and Laura Bishop, MPCA commissioner
- Opportunities for ag-urban partnerships to build resiliency to climate change, as outlined in the Environmental Quality Board’s 2020 State Water Plan.
2019 Ag-Urban Partnership Forum Summary: Kimberly Musser, associate director, Water Resources Center, Minnesota State University-Mankato
- Summary of 2019 forum, including a desire by participants to continue building ag-urban relationships; moving forward with flexible pilot projects instead of developing larger programs; exploring a partnership between the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) and cities; and an interest in developing a trading program between point sources and non-point sources of pollution.
One Watershed One Plan: How it works and why you should get involved: Julie Westerlund, One Watershed One Plan coordinator, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, and Courtney Phillips, project and program manager, Shell Rock River Watershed District
- How to lead successful partnerships within One Watershed One Plan, or 1W1P, which offers opportunities for ag and urban partners to collaborate on water quality initiatives .
Ecosystem Services Market Place Minnesota Pilot Program: Leif Fixen, agriculture strategy manager, The Nature Conservancy MN-ND-SD
- Overview of this first-of-its-kind pilot project in Minnesota, which is set up to provide financial incentives to encourage more farmers to implement practices that help improve soil health, store carbon in soils, and reduce nutrient run-off from farm fields. The project will test and streamline the creation and sale of environmental credits from farmland.
Panel: Ag and Urban Partners in Water Quality: Mitch Menden, Rahr Corporation; Abby Morrisette, Barr; Steve Schlangen, MAWQCP-certified producer and participant in the Ecosystem Services Market Place pilot project; Bryan and Lauren Biegler, MAWQCP-certified producers; and Mike Kinney, district administrator for the Comfort Lake–Forest Lake Watershed District
- Sparking involvement in water quality projects, developing partnerships, overcoming barriers, and seizing opportunities for the future.
Closing remarks: Steve Peterson, MAWQCP-certified producer and former chairperson, Field to Market and Minnesota AgriGrowth Council
- Inspiration for advancing partnerships to protect water quality in Minnesota.