Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock

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Ag Water stewardship

April 2019

Forum April 4 on water storage in Minnesota River basin

water storage

The Water Resources Center, Minnesota State University, Mankato is hosting the Minnesota River Basin Water Storage Forum on Thursday, April 4, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Kato Ballroom in Mankato. The public is invited to this event to learn about the importance of water storage across the Minnesota River Basin and the diversity of practices that help to store more water on the landscape. Researchers, experts and local staff will clarify the need for water storage and regional case studies implementing conservation practices.

Too much water flowing into the Minnesota River plays a big part in local pollution problems. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency studies show there’s increasingly more rain combined with more artificial drainage bringing more pollutants from the landscape to the river, such as sediment, bacteria and nutrients. A central clean-up strategy, for a long-term solution, is to store more water on the landscape. More information and register online.

Cover crops, rotational grazing, habitat add up to water quality certification

ben dwire

Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certified farmer Ben Dwire of Arco in western Minnesota does a lot to make his farm sustainable, including cover crops, rotational grazing, and growing pollinator habitat. See the video in this segment of the Feb. 3, 2019 episode of Prairie Sportsman on Pioneer Public Television.

Certification is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. 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.

Certification numbers as of March 31:            

  • 716 certified producers
  • 471,820 certified acres
  • 1,436 new practices implemented

NRCS helps farmers fine-tune practices, attain ag water quality certification

kaiser farm

With a well-established no-till practice, buffered ditches, plus managed irrigation and fertilizer rates, Alan and Brenda Kaiser’s Stearns County farm easily qualified for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. Watch video. A three-species, 125-acre cover crop trial bolstered the crop and livestock operation’s already high scores and augmented water-quality improvements. They were made possible through an award from the Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Regional Conservation Partnership Program.  Full Board of Water and Soil Resources story. More photos on Google Drive.

Advance preparations helping to minimize flood impacts

flooding manure basin

With spring flooding occurring, state emergency management officials have been making plans, and urge the public to check out their information. Useful websites include:

If you live in a rural area or operate a feedlot where flooding is a possibility, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) says there are simple things you can do to minimize pollution threats.

  • Secure all propane and liquid fuel tanks so they will not tip over or float away in floodwaters. If possible, liquid fuel tanks should be emptied by your petroleum provider until floodwaters recede.
  • Move household and farm chemicals to an area that is safe from floodwaters. If that is not possible, make sure they are in secure containers that will not leak, rupture or float off.
  • Smaller livestock operations that spread solid manure must ensure that it doesn’t run off with snowmelt flowing to surface waters. If possible, farmers should refrain from spreading manure during periods of rapid snow melt.

Basin overflow response includes a call to State Duty Officer

Livestock producers are being asked to communicate proactively with the State Duty Officer to report if their manure storage basin is full or nearly so. They should call the Duty  Officer at 800-422-0798, and take immediate action to reduce environmental impact, such as creating temporary berms to stop discharge, temporarily plugging culverts and drain tile intakes to prevent manure inflow, and soaking up liquid with absorbent material, such as hay, straw, cornstalks or wood shavings.

County Feedlot Officers also want to hear from producers who may have storage room to spare, as it may be needed in emergency situations. The CFOs will provide advice on best management practices for farmers to minimize impacts. Tips on bad weather manure management are available in the Managing manure, land application during adverse weather conditions fact sheet. State Duty Officer — 1-800-422-0798.

Minnesota rules require a 300-foot setback from surface waters and open tile intakes for manure spread on frozen or snow-covered soil. To reduce the impact of manure applied under these conditions, avoid steeper slopes; seek fields, or parts of fields with less than 6 percent slope for solid manure, 2 percent for liquid manure, or have greater than 30 percent crop residue.

Minnesota Extension Service offers a list of possible things you can do to limit the environmental impact of manure application during wet conditions. Click here for more: .

Waste to Worth conference April 22-26 in Minneapolis

The 2019 Waste to Worth conference will be April 22-26 at the Graduate Hotel on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis East Bank campus. Waste to Worth brings together the nation’s best science on animal agriculture and the environment with:

  • Innovative outreach
  • Opportunities to meet and network with outstanding people
  • Mix with multidisciplinary specialists in a collaborative atmosphere

Optional tours will visit various agriculture and livestock facilities including: Simply Shrimp near Willmar, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, Creekside Soil, Riverview Dairy, West Central Research and Outreach Center, AURI, and Sustane organic fertilizer. More information and registration are available on the W2W website.

Bois de Sioux Watershed landowners and farmers backing $2 million ditch project to benefit water quality, flood reduction

Landowners and farmers in Wilkin County in western Minnesota are building on past water quality efforts by backing a new project to modernize a drainage system that has not been improved significantly in more than a hundred years. A report shows the outdated system served by ditches 9 and 10 suffers from:

  • Uncontrolled flows that cause excessive erosion and sediment transport.
  • Improper culvert sizing that causes unnecessary flooding and downstream impacts
  • Excessive spoil bank heights that force floodwaters over a major highway, posing a safety hazard
  • High velocity areas that promote channel erosion

Chad Engels, engineer for the Bois de Sioux Watershed District, says when designed correctly, ditch improvement projects can help control flooding and improve water quality by conveying smaller, more frequent summer rainfall events in a manner that results in minimal crop loss. Larger flows, like those resulting from spring snow melts or heavy summer rain storms, can also be controlled if a project is designed correctly.

“The secret is to size channels and culverts just large enough to pass the smaller flows,” Engels says. “When flows exceed the design flow, excess water is pushed out of the channel and goes into floodplain storage in the adjacent field. The culvert is being used to meter the flow. The most benefit is seen when existing oversized bridges are replaced with smaller culverts.”

The project’s estimated cost to landowners is about $2 million. The Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources will provide a $60,000 grant in coordination with the Wilkin County SWCD.

 Construction should begin this summer.

Side-dressing can extend window for applying manure


U of M Extension reports promising results from side-dressing finishing swine manure into V4 corn. "In recent years, the window of manure application has narrowed due to wet or unseasonably cold weather. Side-dressing opens up a non-traditional window of opportunity," says Melissa Wilson, Extension manure specialist. "We have also heard from some farmers that older-style hog barns no longer have a full year of storage and need somewhere to apply manure in the summer. Studies of sidedressing swine manure into corn in Ohio have shown promising results, so we wanted to test it in Minnesota."

The liquid manure was injected with a 12-row applicator and dragline, which did surprisingly little damage to the standing corn. Yields were comparable with conventional nitrogen sources. Read full story.

Ag Dept. offers variety of loans and grants

The Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture offers a variety of loans and grants for production and conservation projects at livestock feedlots.

AgBMP Loan

Loans up to $200,000 are available for projects such as manure storage facilities, tillage equipment, and run-off reduction that utilize agricultural best management practices to improve or maintain good water quality. Loans may be issued for up to 10 years and 3% interest.  Contact Richard Gruenes, 651-201-6609,

Ag Improvement Loan

Assists eligible farmers in financing capital improvements to improve production, efficiency, and increase farm income. Improvements include the purchase and construction or installation of improvements to land, buildings and other permanent structures. This includes equipment incorporated in or permanently affixed to the land, buildings, or structures which are useful for and intended to be used for the purpose of farming. Also, wind energy conversion facilities with an output capacity of one megawatt or less. Contact Ryan Roles, 651-201-6666,

Dairy Farm Improvement Grant – Deadline May 1, 2019

This grant is for principle operators of dairy cow operations currently producing Grade B milk and producers of Grade A milk who need to make capital or operational improvements to ensure continued compliance with Grade A requirements. Producers may apply for up to $10,000 with no matching requirement. Eligible costs include the equipment, services, and physical improvements needed to meet or maintain Grade A dairy farm and quality standards. Contact Ashley Bress,

Dairy Business Planning Grant

This grant covers 50% of the cost to create a business plan for a dairy farm. Grants can be used to evaluate the feasibility of any changes to your farm including a farm transition and stray voltage testing. Contact David Weinand, 651-201-6646,

Disaster Recovery Loan

This low interest loan is available to farmers for damage due to high winds, hail, tornado, floods or excessive rainfall or snowfall. These funds are for recovery expenses not covered by insurance. The Disaster Recovery Loan 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. Contact Ryan Roles, 651-201-6666,

Restructure II Loan

Helps farmers who remain in good credit standing with their local agricultural lender, but are having trouble with cash flow due to adverse events. Only debt of an agricultural nature is eligible for refinancing. Contact Ryan Roles, 651-201-6666,

Livestock Equipment Loan

Helps farmers finance the purchase of livestock-related equipment. Loans may be used for the acquisition of equipment for animal housing, confinement, animal feeding, milk production, and waste management. Contact Ryan Roles, 651-201-6666,

Livestock Expansion Loan

Helps finance the construction of state-of-the-art facilities for livestock farmers. Livestock expansion means improvements to a livestock operation, including the purchase and construction or installation of improvements to land, buildings, and other permanent structures, including equipment incorporated in or permanently affixed to the land, buildings or structures, which are useful for and intended to be used for the purpose of raising livestock. The purchase of livestock is not eligible. Contact Ryan Roles, 651-201-6666,

Midwest Farm Energy Conference July 10-11 at UMM

Showcasing the latest advancements in renewable energy technologies for today's agricultural farms, the 2019 Midwest Farm Energy Conference will feature solar shading for grazing dairy cattle, sow cooling and piglet heating systems, bringing solar PV to your farm, and much more. The Midwest Farm Energy Conference is scheduled for July 10-11, 2019. Early bird pricing available until May 1. Full conference, single day, and student rates available. Keynote dinner scheduled for the evening of July 10. U of MN West Central Research and Outreach Center 46352 State Hwy 329 Morris, MN  56267 320-589-1711

In the news

Farms important in water quality question, SWCD column, Pine County Journal, 3/26/19
Residents give EQB input on potential environmental study, Rochester Post-Bulletin, 3/25/19
Agencies assessing nitrates in southeastern Minnesota drinking water, Red Wing Republican-Eagle, 3/29/19


April 4: Minnesota River water storage forum, Kato Ballroom, Mankato.
April 12-14: Minnesota Buffalo Association conference, Sleepy Bison Acres, Sleepy Eye.
April 22-26: Waste to Worth Conference, Graduate Hotel, Minneapolis.
June 12-13: Minnesota Milk Producers-Summer Escape, Spicer.
July 10-11: Midwest Farm Energy Conference, U of M-Morris.

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