August 2, 2023
The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) provides financial support to implement new conservation practices and recognition of practices already in use. Administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, more than 1,350 farmers operating nearly a million acres have been enrolled as of July.
Farmers certified through the program are deemed to be following all environmental regulations and using the best available practices suited to their farming system. Certification is valid for 10 years, with midcontract checks to ensure farmers continue to meet program requirements.
Additional financial help
Farmers should check out the program as it offers several financial incentives. The MAWQCP Financial Assistance grant provides up to $5,000 to farmers enrolled in the program or actively seeking certification. Perhaps the largest financial benefit to the program is that the process helps farmers identify resources necessary to meet environmental goals through other programs offered through the MDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources.
Most farmers begin the process with their local Soil and Water Conservation District. This is important in that these are the same people who often oversee related financial programs and can help MAWQCP participants through the process of applying for funding and related paperwork.
Since announcement of the program in 2012, the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center has encouraged farmers to consider the program.
Sometimes no changes are necessary to benefit
While not a fit for everyone, enrolled farmers report that in some cases they were eligible for certification without any changes to their operation, providing peace of mind and validation that they are using appropriate practices. Other farmers note the importance of identifying necessary changes and offering financial help to implement them.
To learn more about the program, go to the MDA website or visit your local Soil and Water Conservation District office.
Formo is executive director of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center.
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