Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock

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Ag Water stewardship

July 2018

Agricultural water quality certified acres making an impact

mawqc ag water quality

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification program advisory committee met June 25 in Glenwood for a program update and testimonies from participating area farmers. Operated by the Dept. of Agriculture, it's a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Photo L-R: Paul Freeman, Jessica Blair, State Rep. Paul Anderson.

"It's a chance to quantify the good things we are doing out there," says Paul Freeman, Pope County farmer. The sentiment was echoed by Grant Pearson, Stearns SWCD and certification specialist, "it's a opportunity to tell a positive story." Program director Brad Redlin offered a comparison with other conservation programs in terms of cost: "This is proving to be efficient in its use of dollars, the more farms certified the less it costs."

It uses a risk-assessment process where risks to water quality are identified and treated. When an identified risk is mitigated it is counted as a new practice. Farms that install and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. To date, 71 of Minnesota's 87 counties have at least one water-quality certified farm. Certification numbers as of June 18, 2018:            

  • 585 certified producers
  • 371,107 certified acres
  • 1,087 new practices implemented

Impact on water quality:

  • 33,924 tons of soil saved per year
  • 15,055 tons of sediment reduced per year
  • 18,019 lbs. of phosphorus prevented per year
  • Up to 49% estimated reduction in nitrogen loss

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Water quality certification program joins Field to Market

field to market

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. Field to Market is a national organization working to meet the challenge of producing enough food, fiber, and fuel for a rapidly growing population while conserving natural resources. As a member in Field to Market, the MAWQCP will work together with grower organizations, academia, conservation groups, public sector partners, and leading companies at a national level to continue to improve water quality, water use efficiency, and land use efficiency while reducing soil erosion and greenhouse gas emissions.

“We feel the Ag Water Quality Certification Program and Field to Market are a great fit together as Minnesota looks to be a national leader in water quality and sustainability efforts,” says Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “As a member, we will be connected with the network of organizations and farmers participating in Field to Market, and will be a collaborator on cutting edge projects to improve the agricultural supply chain.”

“We are pleased to welcome MAWQCP to our membership and look forward to forging greater public-private partnerships in Minnesota to support farmers in improving water quality outcomes,” says Rod Snyder, president of Field to Market. “Working with MAWQCP and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will be a great addition to state-level leadership within Field to Market.”

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Drainage water management demo Aug. 16 at Lamberton

ag drainage

You are invited to attend a Drainage Water Management Demonstration Tour at the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center just west of Lamberton, Thursday Aug. 16. The field day is being sponsored by the Southwest Research and Outreach Center and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences with support from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment and the National Science Foundation. Goals are to share how single and multiple drainage water management practices can help meet the Minnesota Nutrient Reduction Strategy Goals for nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural runoff and drainage while maintaining farm productivity and profitability.

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Cottonwood Cattle Producers host Summer Beef Tour

summer beef tour ashley kohls

The Cottonwood Cattle Producers hosted the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association’s summer tour and trade show Tuesday, July 10 in the Windom and surrounding area. “It's a good opportunity to show how we do things in our part of the state and use the resources that we have,” Cottonwood County Cattle Producer board member and tour coordinator Jamey Hochstein told the Worthington Daily Globe. “It’s also good to show innovative things that producers are doing.” In the photo at right MSCA executive director Ashley Kohls is interviewed on radio. Tour stops included:

  • Graff Feedlots LLC, northeast of Jeffers: Cow-calf pasture operated by Troy and Hilary Paplow and Glen and ValRee Graff that implements rotational grazing and cover crops.
  • Minnesota Supreme Feeders, south of Lamberton: Modern feedlot owned by Warren, Maxine and Mark Pankonin.
  • J&S Grazing, west of Windom: Stocker pasture operated by Jeff and Scott Fredin.
  • Extended Ag Service, Lakefield: Agriculture service provider operated by Jim, Andy and Matt Nesseth that offers scouting, research and advice.
  • O’Connor Farms, southwest of Lakefield: Vintage feedlot with improvements to meet demands of today’s production expectations and market owned by Dan O’Connor.
  • Marlin and Kelly Piotter cow-calf pasture, southeast of Windom: Rotational grazing pasture.

The event included a trade show featuring 56 indoor and 12 outdoor ag-related vendors at the Cottonwood County Fairgrounds in Windom. The Cottonwood Cattle Producers last hosted the event in 2008, and also hosted in 1998. The 2019 Summer Beef Tour will be July 9 in the Morris area.

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beef cattle summer beef tour
Black angus cattle at Minnesota Supreme Feeders south of Lamberton

Wet weather challenging for manure storage capacity

flooding manure basin

Continued summer rainfall in southern Minnesota finds some livestock producers scrambling to stem overflow from livestock manure storage basins. Pollution problems include overflowing manure and wastewater storage structures and releases from underground and above-ground storage tanks as well as open feedlots located in floodplains or in sensitive areas where runoff can enter surface waters. Photo: Overflowing cattle manure storage basin from recent heavy rains in southwest Minnesota.

Farmers must call the Minnesota Duty Officer immediately at (800) 422-0798 (calls answered 24/7) if their manure-storage facilities overflow, if manure enters surface waters or if their manure-storage structure is inundated by floodwaters. If their manure-storage facilities are in danger of overflowing, farmers can contact the MPCA at (800) 657-3864 or (651) 296-6300 (during regular business hours) and ask for a feedlot staff person. Farmers in feedlot delegated counties also may contact county feedlot staff. NPDES and SDS permit holders experiencing a discharge must submit the 5-day discharge report and notify the agency when the level encroaches on the freeboard.

To reduce the likelihood of an overflow, feedlot operators are encouraged to divert water from manure-storage facilities if possible. Manure stockpiles located in areas that could flood should be removed immediately.

While we can’t control weather, planning ahead helps to better deal with the impact of bad weather on manure management and land application. A little more investment in storage, conservation practices, and planning can be a very cost-effective form of insurance. It also reduces the risk of economic loss of nutrients from surface-applied manure without incorporation. Farmers with open feedlots should scrape-and-haul weekly if possible.

For more information about flooding and the environmental problems it can create, visit the minimizing flood risk page on the MPCA website. Factsheet: Managing manure storage and land application during adverse weather conditions.

Zero interest loans available for farmers affected by flooding, MDA news release, 7/6/18 

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Anna Cates named first State Soil Health Specialist

anna cates

The Minnesota Office for Soil Health (MOSH) announces the selection of the first State Soil Health Specialist, Anna Cates. This position provides expertise on soil health issues for agricultural and conservation professionals across the state.

The Office for Soil Health is a collaborative program created last year by the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) in partnership with the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center (WRC). The Office for Soil Health strives to build local expertise to promote soil health and water conservation by developing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of local conservationists to promote sustainable soil and land management.

Anna Cates holds a Master of Science in Soil Science and is finishing her doctorate in Agronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she has been studying soil carbon cycling in corn-cover crop biofuel systems. She will begin her new role in a full-time capacity in January 2019, but will work part-time until then to connect with partners and stakeholders and plan outreach and research activities. Her position will be housed within the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate at the University of Minnesota.

“I’m eager to work closely with farmers, keeping in mind the uncertainties of crop and livestock production,” Cates said. “My goal is to tailor my research toward addressing the practicalities of running a business.”

The Soil Health Specialist will expand the tools and skills of Minnesota’s local conservation delivery community through the development of research and outreach strategies, as well as promote greater understanding of the economic impacts of soil and water management practices. For more information, contact the Office for Soil Health at (612) 624-6765.

New Soil Health Page

Healthy soil is the foundation of productive, sustainable agriculture.  The USDA launched a new soil health page on, being built with the needs of America’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters in mind. Visit today to learn more about the principles of soil health, and give us feedback at the bottom of the page. Whether you grow corn in Alabama, raise cattle in Wyoming, or anything in between, this will help you build healthier soils and strengthen your operation.

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Public hearings in July on proposed groundwater rule

The Dept. of Agriculture will be holding five public hearings in July before an administrative law judge on the proposed groundwater protection rule. The initial comment period closes on Aug. 2 at 4:30 p.m. More information about the formal comment process is here.

The goal of the rule is to work with local farmers to reduce elevated nitrate levels in groundwater. The proposed rule would regulate the use of nitrogen fertilizer in areas of the state where soils are vulnerable to leaching and where drinking water supplies have high nitrate levels. Public input is important to the rule making process and the public can testify on the rule at the following scheduled hearings:

  • Monday, July 16, 1-6 p.m., Robert Boeckman Middle School, 800 Denmark Ave., Farmington
  • Wednesday, July 18, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Stewartville Civic Center,105 1st St E, Stewartville
  • Thursday, July 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Minnesota West Community and Technical College, 1450 College Way, Worthington
  • Wednesday, July 25, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., River's Edge Convention Center, 10 Fourth Avenue S., St. Cloud
  • Thursday, July 26, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., American Legion, 900 1st St E, Park Rapids 

The judge must allow written comments to be submitted into the hearing record by the agency and all interested persons for five working days after the hearing ends. At the hearing, the administrative law judge may order this five working day comment period extended for a longer period but for no more than 20 calendar days. Comments should relate to agency’s proposed rule, and comments received after 4:30 p.m. will not be accepted.

A rebuttal comment period will be Aug. 3 through 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 9. This may change if the administrative law judge extends the initial comment period at the hearing. Rebuttal comments should relate to comments filed by others in the initial comment period. Comments received after 4:30 p.m. Aug. 9 will not be accepted.

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Regional collaboration focus at ag-animal science conference

ag animal science conference 2018 logo

Sept. 25 many of the region’s top agriculture and animal science stakeholders will convene to discuss some of the industry’s most pressing issues at the MinnWest Technology Campus for the 8th annual Ag & Animal Science Conference. A key objective is to support a unified voice to share the collective narrative about agriculture and the role it plays on the economy from our neighbor’s table to world trade.

Keynote speaker Tony DeLisi is a senior consultant at Avalanche focused on workforce and economic development strategies, project management, research, and client support. His session "Regional Collaboration in Agriculture & Animal Science" will help participants understand successful current economic development trends in agricultural technology, workforce and collaboration.

The session will frame the topic from a national perspective, and will include examples from best practice regions of various sizes that have built successful programs around agriculture and animal science. The focus will likely be on factors such as precision agriculture, new technology, connecting to global markets, local food, and regional partnerships.

Technology campus hosts 30 companies

The MinnWest Technology Campus is a business community located on a 100-acre historic campus in Willmar. It hosts 30 companies in agribusiness, bioscience and technology, national and global leaders in their industries. There are four state-of-the-art R&D labs including a University of Minnesota Extension Level II clean room and teaching lab with a DNA sequencing machine.

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State's first SWCD formed 80 years ago in Winona County

winona swcd 1938

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the formation of the first Soil and Water Conservation District in Minnesota. The first district was the Burns-Homer-Pleasant SWCD located in Winona County. To highlight this milestone, the Conservation Partnership, MASWCD, NRCS, BWSR and Winona County SWCD, are planning an outreach event on Tuesday, Aug. 14 to advance the SWCD and NRCS mission of voluntary conservation and technical assistance. The event will take place at Farmers Community Park, 23274 Arches Rd, Winona, MN 55987 (look for additional event information from MASWCD in the near future).

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News briefs

Registration open for U of M Field School for Ag Professionals July 25-26

The 2018 Field School for Ag Professionals will be July 25 - 26 at the University of Minnesota Agriculture Experiment Station on the St.Paul campus. The school combines hands-on training and real world field scenarios. The two-day program focuses on core principles in agronomy, entomology, weed and soil sciences on the first day to build a foundation for participants, and builds on this foundation with timely, cutting-edge topics on the second day. More information.

'Conservation for a profitable farm' workshops offered

A series of workshops about "conservation for a profitable farm business" in the Shakopee Creek Watershed will provide farmers and landowners an opportunity to learn from other farmers and experts ways to support profitable farming while building healthy soils and maintaining clean water. Remaining workshops include:

  • July 19, 9-noon, tilllage and soil health, Law Enforcement Center, 1410 Kansas Ave., Benson.
  • Aug. 7, 4-7 p.m., integrating livestock into row crops, Kerkhoven Community Center, 301 10th St.
  • Sept. 7, 4-7 p.m., farmland management, conservation legacy and working lands, Kerkhoven Community Center.

To register contact SWCD offices in Chippewa, Kandiyohi, or Swift counties, or Land Stewardship Project office in Montevideo, 320-269-2105.

EPA reports on coordination for nonpoint source measures in hypoxia task force states

The Nonpoint Source Workgroup of the Hypoxia Task Force has produced a summary of nutrient reduction measures among member states, and critical metrics for tracking and informing progress toward reducing nutrient loadings to the Gulf of Mexico. This document represents the first-ever report that focuses on the Hypoxia Task Force. It is a coordinated effort to account specifically for nonpoint source changes, primarily agricultural, that influence nutrient loading from a variety of methods. Read the report and learn how the Hypoxia Task Force and partners are supporting states in the Mississippi River Basin to implement nutrient strategies and conservation practices to reduce nutrient loadings contributing to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

Using canopy sensing to manage nitrogen

Minnesota crop news blog: In Minnesota, we’ve seen more in-season nitrogen applications due in part to wetter springs. More precipitation means less time to apply before planting, or more nitrogen loss in season. Many are turning to canopy sensing technologies to guide fertilizer application rates during in-season applications. Here’s a look at how it works and what to consider when using sensing. Read more here.

MPCA posts 2018 Clean Water Accountability Report

The MPCA 2018 Clean Water Accountability Report was posted on its website on June 29. The Clean Water Legacy Act requires that the MPCA report actions taken in Minnesota’s watersheds to meet water quality goals and outcomes. The first report in 2016 covered eight WRAPS-approved watersheds. This year’s report provides more data online through a Tableau format and covers all 80 watersheds statewide, including status of WRAPS/TMDLs, wastewater loading, best management practices, and spending for implementation projects. Questions can be directed to David Miller or Jeff Risberg

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In the news

MPCA sets up air monitoring at Goodhue County hog farm
Rochester Post-Bulletin, 7/5/18
Hog farm opponents encouraged by meeting with governor
Rochester Post-Bulletin, 7/5/18
Fillmore County backs EIS request for proposed feedlot
Fillmore County Journal, 7/9/18


July 13: Women in Ag Network summer tour, Kimball.
Aug. 15-16: North American Manure Expo, Bookings, SD.
Aug. 16: Drainage water management, SWROC, Lamberton.
Sept. 25: Ag and Animal Science Conference, MinnWest Technology, Willmar.

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