Ag Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock - June 2017

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Ag Water stewardship

June 2017

MDA seeks public input on draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule

The Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture (MDA) is seeking public review and comment of a draft proposal for regulating the use of nitrogen fertilizer in Minnesota. The purpose of the proposed rule is to minimize the potential for nitrate-nitrogen contamination from fertilizer in the state's groundwater and drinking water. 

The MDA is seeking public input and will be holding five public listening sessions throughout the state to discuss the rule and receive written comments. The draft rule can be viewed onlineAll comments must be submitted in writing. the MDA will review comments and expects to publish the final draft of the rule in the fall of 2017 and adopt in fall of 2018. Listening sessions on the draft rule will be held at the following locations:

  • June 22, 5 p.m., Marshall Public Library
  • June 28, 6 p.m., Chatfield Center for the Arts
  • June 29, 2 p.m., U of M Extension, Farmington
  • July 6, 3 p.m., Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud
  • July 11, 6 p.m., Robertson Theatre, Wadena-Deer Creek High School 

Written comments on the draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule should be submitted by Friday. Aug.11 via mail or email to: Larry Gunderson, Fertilizer Technical Unit Supervisor, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, 625 Robert St. N., St. Paul, MN, 55155-2538, comments should, but are not required to, include a contact name, phone number and/or email address to provide for follow-up discussion on specific comments.

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EPA launches Animal Agriculture Education Project

The U.S. EPA has launched the Animal Agriculture Education Project, a series of educational modules to increase understanding and knowledge among state and federal government agencies and the agricultural industry about water quality protection and animal feeding operations. It will include multimedia features such as videos and virtual tours of farms and discuss topics including advances in technologies and production systems, measures to protect water quality, and issues involved in on-farm decision-making about manure management.

An Overview Module entitled, "Animal Agriculture, Manure Management, and Water Quality", has been released. It was developed with funding from EPA and input from animal agriculture stakeholders. Additional modules are being developed and funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture on conservation practices, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association on beef production and manure management systems.

The Animal Agriculture Education Project is accessible on the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center's website, and the EPA's Animal Feeding Operations partnerships website.

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Farmers describe 'doing our part' to help Minnesota River

stony creek cattle

Farmers and farm organizations 'doing our part' joined presenters at the eighth Minnesota River Congress May 18 in Redwood Falls. Grant Breitkreutz, whose Stoney Creek Farm ranges along a southside river bluff near Redwood Falls, described how they manage 450 acres of pasture, 350 acres of no-till crops, and 150 Red Angus cows. (Environmental Stewardship photo: Grant and Dawn Breitkreutz). Crop residue and cover crops contribute most of the forage. Buffers protect waterways, and soil health is vastly improved. Todd Geselius, of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, reported that of the co-op's total 120,000 acres, more than 100,000 are being seeded with a cover crop.

Like the river it champions, the Minnesota River Congress flows unceasing toward its goal of uniting everyone working for the economic, natural, and social vitality of the Minnesota River basin. "Minnesota River Congress staying the course," West Central Tribune, May 27, 2017, by Tom ChervenyMore than 80 river enthusiasts gathered to network and learn about the "State of the River - past, present, and future." What they learned provides a foundation of knowledge about the basin's history, water quality, pollution issues, and solutions such as conservation farming practices.

Other presentations included: Dr. Peter Wilcock on the work of the Collaborative for Sediment Source Reduction, Pat Baskfield of on MPCA on hydrology, Kim Musser of MSU on history of water quality work in the basin, Brad Redlin on Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, Clark Lingbeek on Greater Blue Earth River Basin Alliance actions, and Tabor Hoek of BSWR on the history and future of  CREP in the Minnesota River Basin.

Congress board meeting June 21 open to public

The next Minnesota River Congress board meeting, 1-3:30 p.m. June 21 at the Henderson Community Center, will be open to anyone interested in attending. Agenda items include: Review of May 18 congress, potential actions for Interest Network Teams, Army Corps of Engineers presentation, role in 25 by 25, and possible cultural team addition. For more information contact Scott Sparlin,, 507-276-2280.

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Ag water quality certification taps into Conservation Corps

conservation corps

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) partnered with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa by supporting two corps members to work along side area certification specialists in the southeastern and north central areas. The two corps members, along with 30 others located within Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) throughout Minnesota, will spend their summer working with natural resource professionals to learn hands-on skills in managing soil and water resources.

MAWQCP field operations and training coordinator Bill Fitzgerald recently presented on the certification program at the Corps' week-long training at the Forest Resource Center. This effort is MAWQCP's contribution to building the next generation of conservation employees. To date, MAWQCP has certified more than 400 producers across the state. To get started on certification, contact your local SWCD and check out MAWQCP’s webpage at

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Summer beef tour July 11 in scenic Glacial Ridge area

beef cattle grazing

The Glacial Ridge Cattlemen's Association will be hosting the annual summer beef tour July 11 near Starbuck. See how cattle are raised in West Central Minnesota while taking a scenic chartered bus tour near the Glacial Ridge Trail. For experienced cattle producers and anyone interested in learning more about the beef industry. Visit with industry professionals and view products at the trade show.

Originally inhabited by the Dakota people and then later by the Ojibwe, wildlife and buffalo took advantage of the glacial hills and depressions with many depressions forming small freshwater lakes. Today, the region is vastly agricultural with many of the hills and valley’s not able to be farmed, being grazed by cattle. Tour stops include: Clear Springs Cattle Company near Starbuck, Bakko Brothers Inc. near Glenwood, Bar J Ranch near Brooten, Highland Acres Cattle near Starbuck, public grazing lands, and feed and forage demonstration hosted by Nelson Red Angus near Swift Falls.

Registration is from 6:30 to 8:45 a.m. at Clear Springs Cattle Company near Starbuck. Cost: $35 at the door. Credit cards accepted. Includes breakfast, lunch and steak supper.

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Research funds awarded to buffer, multiple BMP projects

The Dept. of Agriculture has selected two projects to receive Clean Water Fund research contracts. Thirteen proposals, totaling over $2.8 million in requested funds, were submitted. The two selected projects total $556,703.
Dr. Gary Sands, U of M Dept. of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, will research “Improving Design, Performance, and Implementation of Saturated Buffers.” This project seeks to increase both the effectiveness and use of saturated buffers as a Best Management Practice to reduce nitrogen loss from artificially drained agricultural lands. It will develop a planning tool to enable local professionals and conservation staff to integrate key site information into the decision-making process for siting and designing saturated buffers.

Dr. Jeffrey Strock, U of M Southwest Research and Outreach Center, Lamberton, will research “Integrated Landscape Management for Agricultural Production and Water Quality.” It establishes a site where the impact of multiple, combined BMPs can be measured. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment will be monitored individually and cumulatively from in-field, edge-of-field, and in-stream BMPs. Research data collected will be used to determine the hydrologic, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment reduction potential of these integrated strategies and their potential for meeting Minnesota's Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals. Additionally, the project will demonstrate the ability to meet the dual goals of maintaining farm productivity while improving watershed conditions and water quality. Additional information is online at - Dept. of Agriculture news release, 6/13/17.

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Slides from Public Drainage Manual workshops now online

Presentations from recent workshops about the Minnesota Public Drainage Manual (MPDM) have been posted on the Board of Water and Soil Resources drainage webpage. There are two separate sets of slides: Engineers workshop April 27 in Willmar, and general user workshops (Moorhead, May 22; St. Cloud, May 23; and New Ulm May 25).  Note that the presentations for Chapters 2 and 4 have many hyperlinks to the pertinent parts of the MPDM being addressed on the slides. The final product provides solid guidance for Chapter 103E drainage authorities, their staff and other advisors, as well as applicable regulatory agencies and many other stakeholders.

BWSR received an appropriation in FY 2014 to update the MPDM and its associated document, Understanding Minnesota Public Drainage Law – Overview for Decision-makers (UMPDL). Now that the MPDM is updated, the process of updating the UMPDL has begun. Look for an announcement of its availability in late 2017 or early 2018. If you are in need of a compressed guide to drainage law administration before that time, please consult the slide presentations from the MPDM Broad User Outreach Workshops found on the BWSR Drainage webpage. For more information contact Timothy Gillette, Board of Water and Soil Resources, 651-297-8287, mobile: 612-201-6228, email:

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Ag-conservation field day events

June 28: UM-NDSU Extension Soil Health Field Day, Morris
June 29: Benefits of cover crops, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Community Center, Renville.
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!

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June 21: Minnesota River Congress board, 1 p.m., community center, Henderson
June 28: UM-NDSU Extension Soil Health Field Day, Morris
June 29: Benefits of cover crops, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Community Center, Renville.
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

Institute details next steps to focus on improving nation's soils
The Progressive Farmer, 5/18/17
Program rewarding farmers who protect water quality small, but growing
Minnesota Public Radio, 5/23/17
Discover what's coming off your farmland
Agri-News, 5/23/17
Crops, climate, culture, and change
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, May-June 2017
$14 million Mankato initiative aims to clean up river
Mankato Free Press, 6/11/17
Minnesota Farmer Dave Legvold preaches restorative farming
Successful Farming, 6/14/17
U.S. pays farmers billions to save the soil. But it's blowing away
NPR, 6/7/17
Pomme de Terre River water quality shows slight improvement, more testing under way
News release, 6/13/17
Meeting on Mississippi Headwaters water quality scheduled for June 20
News release, 6/9/17
Stearns County dairy farmers add water quality to chores
News release, 6/7/17
Prescription for healthier Hawk Creek: Buffers, stormwater controls, changes in ag practices
News release, 6/
MPCA seeks comments from public on proposed dairy in Wilkin County
News release, 6/19/17
MPCA seeks comments from public on proposed hog feedlot expansion in Waseca County
News release, 6/19/17

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The MPCA Agriculture Stewardship newsletter welcomes news from partners about, projects, people, and upcoming events. Email submissions to Past issues (formerly Feedlot Update) are available on the feedlot program publications webpage.