MAWQCP Insider

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September 2020                                                                                 950 producers

                                                                                                              659,440 acres

Field to Market project launched in the Sauk River Watershed

Field to Market logo

The Nature Conservancy, Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) and Stearns County SWCD have partnered to implement and measure the environmental impact of innovative outreach and engagement programs that encourage whole farm planning for water quality in the Sauk River Watershed.

As an enrolled project in Field to Market's Continuous Improvement Accelerator, this initiative will benefit from the common measurement framework offered by the Fieldprint Platform and anonymous peer-to-peer benchmarking. Over the next 5 years the Sauk River project will engage producers through the MAWQCP, develop strategic cost-share programming, partner with ag retailers and advisors, and promote 4R nutrient stewardship. With a goal of achieving an overall water quality outcome while addressing soil health and climate change, this project also offers an opportunity for producers to see how they are doing across different environmental metrics and measure improvements over time. 

To date, Field to Market has more than 50 Continuous Improvement Projects in 32 states, engaging over 3,000 farmers and enrolling more than 3.7 million acres in a journey of continuous improvement. If you are interested in learning more or participating in the Sauk River watershed project, please contact us.


Small grant has big impact: MAWQCP supplemental grant program exceeds $2.8 million in conservation

MAWQCP sign and no till beans into cereal rye cover crop

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program benefits participants in many ways, including regulatory certainty and being formally recognized for protecting Minnesota’s natural resources. In addition, program participants have exclusive access to multiple sources of financial assistance.

MAWQCP participants are eligible for grants of up to $5,000 through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to offset costs of conservation practice adoption and management activities. Since 2016, $1.2 million has been awarded in grants directly to MAWQCP producers for on-farm conservation. The grant program has helped implement over 300 projects across the state, and has leveraged additional funding totaling over $2.8 million. The most commonly implemented conservation practices include cover crops, grassed waterways, water and sediment control basins and prescribed grazing.


The Groundwater Protection Rule

The Groundwater Protection rule minimizes potential sources of nitrate pollution to the state’s groundwater and protects our drinking water. The rule restricts the application of nitrogen fertilizer in the fall and on frozen soils in areas vulnerable to contamination, and it outlines steps to reduce the severity of the problem in areas where nitrate in public water supply wells is already elevated.

Beginning September 1, the application of nitrogen fertilizer in the fall and on frozen soil is restricted in areas vulnerable to groundwater contamination. This will also apply to Drinking Water Supply Management Areas (DWSMAs) with elevated nitrate levels.

Farms that are certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program are deemed to be in compliance with the rule. As part of the certification, MAWQCP farms are required to implement nutrient management practices that at a minimum meet the regional Nitrogen BMPs established by the University of Minnesota. In addition to Nitrogen BMPs, MAWQCP farms implement practices that reduce sediment, soil, and phosphorous runoff, improve soil health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Meet a Water Quality Certified Producer

Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certified farm family

Bryan Biegler runs the farm that has been in his family for over 150 years. He farms with his wife, Lauren, and three young children. The Bieglers wanted to become Water Quality Certified to protect their local bodies of water and to maintain and build soil health in their fields. They utilize strip till, vertical tillage, and no-till on all their acres and use cover crops as much as they can. Bryan also volunteers a lot of time talking with other farmers about his experiences with conservation tillage and cover crops. He hopes to inspire other producers to try some of these new practices on their farms.

Check out the MAWQCP story map to learn more about the Biegler family operation and get to know some of the other 950+ certified producers in Minnesota.


Beyond Water Quality Certification

MAWQCP endorsement signs

The MAWQCP offers three conservation endorsements to water quality certified producers for soil health, integrated pest management, and wildlife. Many conservation practices targeting water quality have benefits for other conservation goals, and the endorsements provide additional recognition to water quality certified producers who are going above and beyond to implement conservation on their farms.

The MAWQCP has awarded 47 endorsements since piloting began in late 2019. To learn more, contact your local MAWQCP Area Certification Specialist

News and Events

Clean water makes great beer

Water Quality Certified Farm

Gravity Storm, a craft brewery in downtown Austin, has teamed with Mower Soil and Water Conservation District and the Cedar River Watershed Partnership (CRWP) – a public-private collaborative – to reward Mower County farmers who are certified through the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program.

Mower SWCD’s Alex Block, a precision-ag associate, worked with Gravity Storm’s head brewer and cofounder Brian Davis on the new incentive for conservation-minded farmers. A 64-ounce growler of one of Gravity Storm’s craft beers will be provided to each new Water Quality Certified producer in Mower County.

“We’re grateful for Gravity Storm’s commitment toward supporting farmers who are putting in the extra work to protect and improve water,” Block said. “It’s also a great fit because clean water makes great beer.”

Pictured: Sandy and Brian Wolfgram receive their 64-ounce growler of Gravity Storm beer from Mower SWCD’s Alex Block for being certified through the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program.

Read the full article

Tune in for the MAWQCP Tech Talk on September 28

Tech Talks are an online training series organized by the Technical Training and Certification Program at the Board of Water and Soil Resources. Rotating speakers cover a wide variety of technical topics every Monday.

On Monday, September 28 at 1pm join Caroline D’Huyvetter, Clarissa Levi and Bill Fitzgerald from MDA to learn about the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Water Quality Certification Program. Caroline, Clarissa and Bill will provide an overview of the tools and process used in assessing farms, as well as technical and financial assistance available to producers interested in becoming Water Quality Certified.

Emerging Farmer Working Group seeking applications

Share your expertise and perspective on the needs of emerging farmers by applying to be on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's inaugural Emerging Farmer Working Group. Check out the video at this link to learn more about this new opportunity, as well as information on how to apply.

Advisory Committee meeting

The next Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for November 4 from 12:30-4:00. The meeting will be virtual and is open to the public. If you would like to attend please email for more information.

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Certify your land, water and legacy for years to come.

Contact your local soil and water conservation district office to get started.