Ag Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock - May 2017

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Ag Water stewardship

May 2017

Feedlot Update newsletter gets a new name

Welcome to the Feedlot Update newsletter under a new name: Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock. A continuation of the Feedlot Update newsletter, it will offer wider news coverage of ag and water quality issues. Going forward, the Feedlot Update newsletter name will remain in use on a quarterly or as-needed basis. Launched in 2002, the newsletter currently goes to 2,331 reciepents among livestock and crop producers, organizations, and agency staff. You can log into our newsletter subscription service to see all MPCA newsletters, and choose which ones you would like to receive, or review your current selections. We welcome your ideas and feedback. Thanks for your interest! Contact: Forrest Peterson, 320-441-6972, 

Dairies in Sauk River watershed certify for water quality practices

dan schlangen

In spring amid the newly-planted fields and rolling forested hills in central Minnesota, sunlight sparkles off its many streams and lakes.

Working to keep the water sparkling, several farmers in the Sauk River watershed chain of lakes southwest of St. Cloud stand out for their conservation farming practices that benefit water quality.

An increasing number have signed up for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. A voluntary program for farmers and landowners that protects the state’s water resources, so far more than 400 farms have been certified statewide.

Dan Schlangen’s dairy farm (photo, right) sits just across the road from Vails and Eden lakes north of Eden Valley in southern Stearns County. Like many small farms of the past, over many years the manure and cropland runoff degraded water quality in nearby streams and lakes.

When contacted several years ago by the Stearns Soil and Water Conservation District about the need to improve a manure storage pit, it led to a new basin, manure stacking slab, and a 60-foot-wide, mile-long grass waterway.

“It was a lot of meetings, paperwork, and cost,” Dan says. “People hesitate to do anything because of that. But we were near two lakes, and we like to use them for recreation, too. We realized that the SWCD was on our side, and it was good working with them.”

Another report on progress in the watershed shows improvement over the past 10 years from a decline in sediment and particles, and excess amounts of the nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen, which fuel algae growth. The reports are available on the MPCA Sauk River watershed webpage.

tom gregory

A few miles northeast of Schlangen’s, Mill Creek wraps around the barns of Tom Gregory’s home place about five miles southeast of Cold Spring. Today, after major improvements, it would be a challenge to find evidence of excess pollutants in runoff to the creek. (Photo: Tom Gregory points out cattails in Mill Creek behind the barns) 

As it meanders from Goodners Lake toward Pearl Lake, Mill Creek flows through the dairy protected by wide buffers and proper manure storage. A major expansion to about 600 cows moved the dairy to a new barn across the road and farther from Mill Creek. A large storage basin contains manure. A variety of cover crops provide soil protection and additional forage.

As a Stearns SWCD supervisor, Gregory helped introduce other farmers to the certification program, including Dave and Jayne Lochen, whose Shore Acres Farm also includes Mill Creek and Pearl Lake shoreline. Recently, Gregory joined Dept. of Agriculture officials at the presentation of certification to the Lochens. A video of the event is available here:

As of spring 2017, certified farms have added 691 new conservation practices keeping more than 14.6 million pounds of sediment out of rivers while saving nearly 20.3 million pounds of soil and 8,744 pounds of phosphorus on farms each year.

After being certified, each farm is considered in compliance with new water quality laws and regulations for 10 years. Certification is also an approved practice farmers can use to comply with the state buffer law. To get started contact your local SWCD office. More information is available on Dept. of Agriculture Water Quality Certification webpage:

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Loans, grants available for farm improvment, expansion

ag loan cover

The Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture (MDA) reminds farmers that there are many types of grants and low interest loans available for farm improvements or expansions. Details and information on how to apply are found on the Financial Assistance Program webpage. A variety of loans and grants are listed in the financial assistance booklet:


  • Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program Financial Assistance
  • Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration.
  • Livestock Investment
  • Dairy Business Planning

Low interest Loans: 

  • Ag Improvement
  • Ag Best Management Practice
  • Methane Digester

MDA Value Added Grant applications available in July

The next round of applications for Value Added Grants from MDA will be available in mid-July, with applications due mid-September. The website with be updated in mid-July with specific dates and the new application form. Up to $1 million is expected for grants for equipment purchases or physical improvements through the Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Program. In previous Value Added AGRI Grant rounds, a variety of businesses have received funding, including meat processors, creameries, wineries, processing facilities, farm co-ops, and food and feed manufacturers. Go online for more information about the Value Added Grant Program and to apply, or contact  Ann Kuzj at 651-201-6028 or Grant line: 651-201-6500.

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Minnesota CREP sign-up now under way

Landowners have a new option to protect their environmentally sensitive cropland with the introduction of the Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (MN CREP).  MN CREP is a voluntary state-federal program designed to improve water quality and habitat conservation. It will protect and restore up to 60,000 acres of marginal cropland across 54 southern and western Minnesota counties, using buffer strips, wetland restoration, and drinking water wellhead protection.

Native plantings on those acres will filter water, prevent erosion, and provide critical habitat for countless grassland species including badgers, meadowlarks, and monarch butterflies. The program is funded with approximately $350 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and $150 million needed from state sources. Landowners wanting to learn more about MN CREP can contact their local FSA/Natural Resources Conservation Service/SWCD office. They can also visit

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Minnesota Milk conference and expo moving to Red Wing area

Minnesota Milk Producers Association announced that they will be moving the 2017 Minnesota Milk Conference and Expo to Treasure Island Resort and Casino near Red Wing, Nov. 28-30, 2017. The trade show will continue, and they are planning more interaction for dairy farmers and more opportunities for vendors to mix with producers, along with entertainment options. The new format will open the door to moving the trade show on a regular basis, to reach farmers and businesses in all parts of Minnesota. Leaving central Minnesota is obviously going to make the distance farther for some, but Minnesota Milk plans to enhance offerings in the area through Dairy Management Workshops. The move to Treasure Island is not permanent, but the start of a rotation that will best serve all dairy producers and help us expand our educational events.

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Midwest Row Crop Collaborative aims to strengthen conservation

cover crop iowa

Agricultural stakeholders, food companies and environmental partners recently launched the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative to support farmers and strengthen conservation in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Leading food and agriculture supply chain companies and conservation organizations have formed an “end-to-end” partnership to help farmers improve the health of their soil and protect water quality. Founding members Include Cargill, Environmental Defense Fund, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Monsanto, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Walmart and the World Wildlife Fund. The MRCC has adopted the same reduction goals as the Hypoxia Task Force, with an interim target of 20 percent nutrient (primarily nitrogen and phosphorus) reduction by 2025 and a 45 percent nutrient reduction goal by 2035. - Nonpoint Source News-Notes, May 2017.

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Iowa reports on stream nutrient monitoring

DES MOINES -- A 2016 report of Iowa’s water monitoring efforts for nutrients highlights both the complexity and long-term value of evaluating nutrient levels in Iowa’s lakes, streams and rivers. 

Developed jointly by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Department of Natural Resources, with the support of Iowa State University and the University of Iowa IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering Center, the report is the first of its kind in Iowa and includes a comprehensive list of surface water monitoring efforts specific to nutrients.

The report was developed in support of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and is available at underneath the heading "Supplemental Documents." More.

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iowa stream monitoring

Ag-conservation field day events

June 28: UM-NDSU Extension Soil Health Field Day, Morris
July 10-11: Summer Beef Tour, Starbuck.
July 18: Soil and water management field day, SWROC, Lamberton.
July 19: Organic field school, SWROC, Lamberton.
Sept. 6: Strip till expo, Fergus Falls, details TBA.
Sept. 8: Cover crop and soil health learning tour, Rushmore, details TBA.

If you know of other field day events for this calendar, please contact Forrest Peterson, 320-441-6972, Thanks!


June 7-9: World Pork Expo, Des Moines.
June 12-13: Fertilizer Institute 4R Summit, Radisson Blu, Minneapolis
June 13-14: Midwest Farm Energy Conference, Morris.
June 19-20: CommonGround Workshop, Minneapolis
June 28: UM-NDSU Extension Soil Health Field Day, Morris
July 10-11: Summer Beef Tour, Starbuck.
Aug. 1-3: Farm Fest, Gilfillan farm, Redwood County.
Sept. 5-6: 10th annual Conservation Technology Information Center tour, West Lafayette, IN.
Sept. 26: Ag and Animal Science Conference, MinnWest Technology Campus, Willmar.

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In the news

Livestock and Poultry Environmental News - May 2017

Animal disease traceability program releases annual movement numbers
Board of Animal Health news release, 5/3/17
MPCA seeks comments from public on proposed hog feedlot in Lyon County
News release, 5/4/17
What's another 1,000 animals?
Agri-News, 5/9/17
Agricultural sustainability: Five midwestern row crop farmers share their views
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Silk from a sow’s ear: Necessity sparks sustainability journey
American Soybean magazine, page 25, Spring 2017.
Temple Grandin to speak at cattle stewardship conference
Wallace's Farmer, 5/18/17
Four more farmed white-tailed deer test positive for Chronic Wasting Disease
Board of Animal Health news release, 5/17/17

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Send the news

We welcome news from partners about projects, people, and upcoming events. Email submissions to Past issues are available on the MPCA feedlot program publications webpage.