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Ag-Urban Partnership Forum: The power of partnerships

A dark haired woman stands at a podium giving a keynote address.

Minnesotans from around the state convened in St Joseph for the fourth annual Ag-Urban Partnership Forum to talk water, specifically water quality issues related to extreme weather. Dozens of new partnership ideas were discussed, as farmers and producers, local, and urban partners sat around tables with agency representatives to brainstorm innovative strategies to improve soil health, reduce runoff, and protect water quality.

MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler and MDA Commissioner Thom Peterson, along with BWSR Assistant Director Justin Hanson kicked off the event, which featured keynote speaker Heidi Roop, Ph.D., director, University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership. Roop shared her observed and projected impacts of climate change in Minnesota and how leveraging partnerships and collaborating to respond to a range of climate risks is challenging Minnesota communities, ecosystems, and economy.

Roop noted that Minnesota is already experiencing the direct impacts of climate change. Our state is becoming warmer and wetter. We are seeing more frequent, intense storms that create damaging flows of water that erode our streams and damage farms and urban infrastructure, and cost our state, and our communities, millions of dollars.

14886: Pull quote (Heidi Roop)
The impacts of climate change in Minnesota should motivate everyone to leverage partnerships and collaboration to respond to risks. We can turn the challenges facing Minnesota communities into water quality opportunities.”
— Keynote speaker Heidi Roop

Therefore, communities are striving to be more resilient. Big problems can cost big dollars to resolve. Panelists shared their success stories and explained how partnership not only helped in the development and implementation of ideas, but also in the funding.

  • The City of Albany’s administrator/clerk/treasurer Tom Schneider shared how Albany partnered with the Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District to create a water-based infiltration and wetland restoration project that is helping to manage heavy rain events and prevent flooding.
  • Wilkin County Soil & Water Conservation District is undergoing an extensive soil health study related tillage treatments and adapting to weather changes. Farmer Vance Johnson explained what he’s learned two years into the five-year project, and how soils, water and economics are all being monitored through crop rotations.
  • Henry Van Offelen, a clean water specialist in the south region of Minnesota for the Board of Water and Soil Resources, shared how Minnesota watersheds are using their local water management plans to build resiliency to climate change, and their ideas for working with local partners.

This annual event was hosted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Department of Agriculture (MDA), and the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). The first forum was in 2019 and focused solely on the protection and improvement strategies for the Minnesota River but sparked a strong desire for additional platforms to collaborate on water protection issues around the state. Subsequent events were held virtually and garnered statewide attendance. This is the first event to return to an in-person format.

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