Minnesota livestock farms can jump to the head of line for MPCA feedlot permits if they also apply for "agricultural water quality certification".
The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, sponsored by the Dept. of Agriculture, went statewide last July. It certifies farmers who manage their land to protect water quality. In return, they receive a 10-year waiver from any new regulations that may occur.
So far, more than 150 farms have received certification, covering more than 83,000 acres and generating more than 274 new conservation practices. Together, the program keeps over 6.5 million pounds of sediment out of our rivers, while saving nearly 9 million pounds of soil and 4,500 pounds of phosphorus on farms, each year.
Livestock manure management is one of certification categories. Most medium and large livestock farms are required to have manure management plans.
The MPCA is revising its feedlot permit application to recognize water quality certification, and move these to the front. It will expedite the approval of the online nutrient management tool developed for the certification program.
Minnesota dairy producers applaud the move. The Minnesota Milk Producers Association says the program “supports dairy farmers’ philosophy that voluntary programs like this one encourage sign-up and make it easier for new farmers and those who are expanding to improve water quality.”
At the Dean Klaverkamp dairy farm in Stearns County, improvements now prevent manure and sediment from reaching nearby Johnson Creek, a tributary of the Mississippi River.
"There really was no downside to it (certification)," says Dean, "because we already were doing most of the work."
The first of its kind nationwide, the program began as a pilot in 2012. With state legislation and a $9 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program became available to farmers statewide in 2015.
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
- Tillage management
- Pest management
- Irrigation and tile drainage management
- Conservation practices