Farm Progress

New public-private partnership brings together precision agriculture and conservation to improve water quality in the Cedar River Watershed.

Paula Mohr, Editor, The Farmer

January 26, 2018

3 Min Read
WORKING ON AG WATER QUALITY: At a recent gathering at Hormel Foods in Austin, Minn., farmers and others involved in water quality efforts met to discuss their work.Environmental Initiative

A new public-private partnership is working to improve water quality and address water resource challenges, including flooding and sedimentation, in the Cedar River Watershed in southern Minnesota.

The Cedar River Watershed Project, the first of its kind in Minnesota, involves Central Farm Service Cooperative, Hormel Foods Corp., Land O’Lakes Sustain, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Environmental Initiative.

At a recent gathering at Hormel Foods in Austin, Minn., farmers and others involved in water quality efforts met to discuss their work. Attending were the following, shown above from left: Lori Marco, Hormel Foods (left); Larry Schmeling, a Dodge County, Minn., farmer; Matt Carstens, Land O’Lakes Sustain; Tom Besch, a Dodge County farmer; Ashley Schmeling, CFS; Justin Krell, a Mower-Steele counties, Minn., farmer; Mike Harley, Environmental Initiative; James Nash Jr., a Steele County farmer; Matt Wohlman, MDA deputy commissioner; and Justin Hanson, Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Farmers in the watershed are located in parts of Dodge, Freeborn, Mower and Steele counties in Minnesota. They work with CFS and Land O’Lakes Sustain to help implement precision agricultural practices that address water quality issues. In turn, the farmers can become certified in the voluntary Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program through MDA. MAWQCP rewards farmers who apply specific conservation practices to improve water quality. Program certification offers specially designated technical and financial assistance and regulatory certainty for a period of 10 years.

“By putting farmers in the driver’s seat, offering proven cutting-edge conservation tools and technology, and establishing clear benchmarks for success, the Cedar River Watershed partnership is set up for long-term sustainability and measurable improvements to water quality in the region,” said Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O’Lakes Sustain.

3 farmers MAWQCP-certified so far
The partnership currently has three MAWQCP-certified farmers in the Cedar River Watershed, and more have expressed interest in the program.

Statewide, MAWQCP has certified more than 500 producers on more than 300,000 acres. This level of participation thus far is estimated to annually hold back more than 23 million pounds of sediment from state rivers while saving nearly 54 million pounds of soil and 13,700 pounds of phosphorus on farms, according to MDA officials.

Land O’Lakes Sustain, in conjunction with CFS, was the first Minnesota private sector business to assist farmers in becoming certified in the MAWQCP. Both help educate farmers about the certification process and serve as advisers to identify and customize agronomic practices to improve water quality, enhance yields and save money. They also assist farmers in identifying local, state and federal cost-share opportunities.

Having broader involvement via ag retailers appears to be a win-win for farmers.

“It’s unreasonable to expect that we’ll address all of our water resource issues through cost-sharing alone,” says Justin Hanson, district manager for the Mower Soil and Water Conservation District, and administrator for Cedar River Watershed District. “This partnership shifts the traditional service model for government and ag retail to empower landowners with tools, information, technical assistance and financial resources to make the best decisions on their land. The result will be a better bottom line for farmers and a positive gain in water quality benefits.”

Back in May 2016, Gov. Mark Dayton and Land O’Lakes Inc. signed a memorandum of understanding that brought together the resources of the agribusiness company and the state to help enhance water quality in Minnesota.

The partnership in the Cedar River Watershed marks a major effort to fulfill the commitment to improve the state’s water resources, according to MDA.

Source: MDA


About the Author(s)

Paula Mohr

Editor, The Farmer

Mohr is former editor of The Farmer.

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