Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock - August 2018

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Ag Water stewardship

August 2018

FarrmFest water quality
Photo L-R: Panel moderator Don Wick of the Red River Farm Network, Dennis Anderson, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Sen. Bill Weber, Warren Formo, Farmers Union government relations director Thom Peterson, Minnesota Farm Bureau director of public policy Amber Hanson Glaeser.

FarmFest panel responds to variety of water quality questions

While the politicians stole the morning show at the governor candidate forum Aug. 8 at FarmFest, a good crowd remained for the afternoon panel on "protecting Minnesota water resources-public concern and landowner implications." After general comments from panelists provided an overview of water quality policies and regulations, audience questions drew responses on a variety of issues.

Acknowledging concern among farmers about the pending groundwater protection-nitrogen rule, Warren Formo of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Center favored an emphasis on best management practices over a regulatory approach. He reminded the audience of the Aug. 15 comment deadline for the draft Groundwater Protection Rule. Responding to a question about inconsistency among state and federal agencies, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said while they may not always agree on solutions, none will mislead landowners. All agreed that agencies must do a better job of working together. Among the state agencies, Landwehr said the DNR deals with water quantity, the MPCA with water quality, and the Dept. of Agriculture with the groundwater-nitrogen rule. Formo praised the MDA for having the "best pesticide monitoring program in the U.S."

Sen. Bill Weber called the "buffer law" a "taking," and expects to see that issue going to the courts. An outdoor conservation-sportsman perspective came from Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Dennis Anderson. Known for his views on agriculture and water quality reflecting urban populations, he said outdoor recreation needs will affect agriculture. If water quality work is to be voluntary, it must be realistic with results, he said. He sees promise in the variety and extent of technology for water quality. There seemed to be general consensus that water management practices such as "catch and release" were needed as long as negative impacts on production were minimized. A farmer with crop land on both sides of the Minnesota River strongly urged more effort on water retention and drainage management to reduce soil loss to the river.

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Vegetated infiltration basins prove worth at flooded feedlots

manure VIB

The excessive July rainfall in southwestern Minnesota caused several basins that collect runoff from open lot feedlots to overflow. MPCA feedlot staff responded to alerts from producers about basin overflows and freeboard encroachments, and provided assistance to minimize impacts to surface waters. In one case the resulting open lot runoff  was collected in the feed pad runoff vegetated infiltration basin. The VIB collected the majority of the open lot runoff before eventually overtopping in the adjacent crop field.

More than two feet of rain fell resulting in reports of 13 overflows, nine being NPDES-permitted sites and four non-CAFOs. There were no reports of manure basin walls collapsing. Emergency reponse steps included pumping down basins and irrigating on crop land, and placing large hay bales in ditches and intermittent water channels. Due to the heavy rains some maintenance is likely needed where VIBs are used to manage runoff from feed storage areas or open lots.

The wet weather and responses underscored the need for advance preparations as climate and weather patterns indicate more in the future. Best management practices in the NPDES or SDS permit include erosion repair and re-establishing vegetation. Information is available from MPCA, delegated county feedlot staff, and a factsheet: Managing Manure and Land Application During Adverse Weather Conditions. Photo: Solids settling basin followed by a VIB that is full of manure from the heavy rains this past June. A flooded creek in the background.

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Winona County SWCD 80th anniversary event Aug. 14

swcd 80th schedule

Minnesota’s first established Soil and Water Conservation District will celebrate 80 years of assisting landowners at an event near Lewiston on Aug. 14. The Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District was established in 1938 under the name Burns-Homer-Pleasant Soil Conservation District. The celebration will begin with an afternoon conservation bus tour. It will return to Farmer’s Community Park for a rainfall and erosion simulator and the Whitewater Watershed LEGO® Model. The event will conclude with a 6 p.m. dinner. It is hosted by the Winona County SWCD in partnership with the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. RSVP for bus tour and/or program at Winona County SWCD, 507-523-2171 ext. 3.

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Producers needed for pig environmental footprint project


From UM Extension Swine Newsletter, July 2018: Want to know more about your environmental footprint? Get additional information about operational costs? University of Minnesota Extension specialist Erin Cortus, and Extension educators Diane DeWitte, Jason Ertl and Sarah Schieck are looking to work with producers in confidentially assessing their own operations using the Pig Production Environmental Footprint Calculator, a tool developed with support from and maintained by the National Pork Board.

Pork producers have made tremendous strides in productivity, as measures like pigs weaned per sow and live weight marketed per ton of feed and per pig space continue to improve. These measures of productivity serve the industry well, but consumers increasingly want to hear more about how the pork they enjoy eating makes productive use of limited resources, like energy, water and land. An "environmental footprint" flips the point of view around to consider how much of a limited resource is used to produce a live pig or a pound of pork. Read more.

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Minnesota River bacteria (E. coli.) TMDL available for review

minnesota river bacteria map

Over the last several years the MPCA has completed many E. coli. (bacteria) TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Load) in the tributaries to the Minnesota River, covering much of the basin. Recently, the MPCA through a contract with Tetra Tech drafted the Minnesota  River E. coli TMDL and Implementation Strategies Report addressing five main stem listings covering various segments of the river from Big Stone Lake at the South Dakota border to Carver Creek in the western metro area.

The report shows that the primary sources of E. coli loading appear to be livestock manure and human waste via non-compliant septic systems. Much of this loading is from watersheds with completed or in-progress TMDLs, with the rest from areas directly draining to the river, which is the primary focus of this report. Overall, the degree of impairment in these main stem reaches is low to moderate. Strategies to protect and restore water quality are outlined in the report, many of which are practices called for in other ongoing studies to address other Minnesota River impairments like sediment and phosphorus.

While the official public comment period has not yet started, the MPCA is seeking any feedback on this report from interested stakeholders during an informal comment period for the next six weeks. Send comments or questions to MPCA project manager Chris Zadak by Sept. 20, 2018. MPCA will consider all comments received during this informal comment period prior to issuing a revised final draft for formal comment during an official public notice comment period later this year. If commenters wish to have their comments as part of the official record they will need to submit them later during the official comment period.

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UM receives funds for soil and manure management research

The University of Minnesota received two USDA Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to expand soil health and manure management research and outreach for our cold climate soils. The Water Resources Center will receive $885,000 to support work at the Minnesota Office for Soil Health, along with partners across the state, to fill the gap in data and case studies about soil health management in cold climates.

The grant will support monitoring of soil health properties across Minnesota, a public database to analyze and share soil health measurements, and a web portal and field events to facilitate farmers and agricultural advisors learning from each other.

Melissa Wilson, Extension Manure Management and Water Quality Specialist, was awarded $125,000 to develop and demonstrate best management practices for the integration of cover crops and manure injection, an innovative approach that can potentially optimize soil nutrient cycling and improve soil health when properly implemented. A list of all CIG awards is available on the USDA website.

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Loan and other info at Dept. of Ag FarmFest booth

The Dept. of Agriculture is featuring several programs to assist farmers at Farmfest Aug. 7-9. The MDA booth offers information on the Loan program options for all types of farming equipment and projects as well as options for the Disaster Loan Program, which can help farmers in the southwest region and around the state  affected by spring and summer flooding. Farm Advocates can provide resources for those facing financial crisis.

  • Disaster Recovery Loan A low-interest loan program to cover expenses not covered by insurance. The funds can be used to help clean up, repair, or replace farm structures and septic and water systems, as well as replace seed, other crop inputs, feed, and livestock, when damaged by high winds, hail, tornado, floods or excessive rainfall.
  • Farm Advocates – Farm Advocates provide one-on-one assistance for Minnesota farmers who face crisis caused by either a natural disaster or financial problems. They are trained and experienced in agricultural lending practices, mediation, farm programs, disaster programs, and crisis counseling.
  • AgBMP and Rural Finance Authority low interest loans The AgBMP and RFA partners with local lenders to provide affordable credit to eligible farmers.
  • Farm Business Management courses – This year at Farmfest the MDA is partnering with the Centers of Excellence in Agriculture to promote Minnesota State Farm Business Management Programs for farm owners and operators or persons interested in farming.
  • Farm & Rural Helpline – 833-600-2670 – 24-hour crisis and referral service.

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News briefs

2018 Clean Water Accountability Report posted on MPCA website

The 2018 Clean Water Accountability Report is now posted on the MPCA’s external website at: The Clean Water Legacy Act requires that the Agency report actions taken in Minnesota’s watersheds to meet water quality goals and outcomes. The MPCA’s first report in 2016 covered eight WRAPS-approved watersheds. This year’s report provides more data online and covers all 80 watersheds statewide, including status of WRAPS/TMDLs, wastewater loading, best management practices, and spending for implementation projects. The data is easily searchable in a number of ways through a flexible online format, and using an engaging new web page – Healthier watersheds: Tracking the actions taken. Questions can be directed to David Miller or Jeff Risberg.

Ag Plastics featured on Ag Day (Dairy Herd Management)

Along with the 1,000 dairy farms with plastic dumpsters in Minnesota, another 5,000 are on farms in Wisconsin where the program started. About 40 million tons of ag plastic have been recycled in the last two years.

Ranchers finalists for environmental stewardship award

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has selected regional honorees for the Environmental Stewardship Award Program. Landuyt Land and Livestock of Walnut Grove, Minnesota and Moes Feedlot in Watertown, South Dakota were selected as two out of the six honorees. The regional winners will compete for the national award, which will be announced during the 2019 Cattle Industry Convention in February. - 8/2/18-Red River Farm Network.

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In the news

Sick horse in Pine City is confirmed to have West Nile Virus
Board of Animal Health news release, 8/1/18
South Dakota feedlot honored for outstanding environmental stewardship
Tri-State Livestock News, 8/2/18

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Aug. 7-9: FarmFest, Gilfillan Farm, Redwood County.
Aug. 14: Organic Dairy Day, West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris.
Aug. 15-16: North American Manure Expo, Brookings, SD.
Aug. 16: Drainage water management, SWROC, Lamberton.
Sept. 25: Ag and Animal Science Conference, MinnWest Technology, Willmar.

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Send the news

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.