Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock, March 2020

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Ag Water stewardship

March 2020

Meetings for 2021-2026 feedlot NPDES permit to go online

feedlot permit

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is revising the general operating permit for about 1,200 large feedlots covering Feb. 1, 2021 through Jan. 31, 2026.

Virtual information meetings about the permit will be scheduled 10 a.m.-noon on Tuesday, March 31, and Thursday, April 2. Logon information and updates will be posted on the MPCA feedlot permit webpage, or by contacting Forrest Peterson, 320-979-1776, Meetings that had been scheduled March 17 at Rochester and March 19 at Mankato have been cancelled.

Following the Minnesota Department of Health’s guidance regarding COVD-19, the MPCA will not be conducting in-person public meetings until after April 30. A formal 30-day public comment period for the permit will be announced in late spring or early summer.

The permit combines Minnesota rules and statutes with federal regulations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. It’s designed to protect water quality, primarily from the storage and land application of manure. A general permit covers facilities whose operations are similar. Under proposed changes, waters will be more protected from nitrogen leaching and runoff from land application of manure, while feedlot owners will benefit from improved forms and online services.

Though substantially similar to the current general permit, the proposed permit includes: Measures to limit nitrates leaching from manure land-application, and streamlining record-keeping, permit format, and application process.

Advance preparations help to minimize flood impacts

hawk creek flooding

While the spring flood forecast looks less severe than 2019 - for the time being - 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.

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.

A Minnesota Extension Service blog offers a list of possible things you can do to limit the environmental impact of manure application during wet conditions.

Two honored for expanded ag water quality endorsement

cotter mawqc

Two Minnesota farmers are being recognized for their commitment to agriculture, water quality, and wildlife. Randy Schmiesing, of Stevens County, and Tom Cotter, of Mower County, were recently given the new Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) wildlife endorsement at the Pheasants Forever National Pheasant Fest in Minneapolis. Schmiesing and Cotter are the first farmers in the state to receive the endorsement. Top photo: Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen and Tom Cotter. Bottom photo: Commissioner Petersen and Randy Schmiesing. News release.

schmiesing mawqcp

MAWQCP launched the wildlife, soil health, and integrated pest management endorsements in December as additions to the 10-year certification a farmer or landowner receives in the program. The certification program partnered with various non-profit organizations, such as Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition, and state agencies to develop the endorsements.

About the Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. The program is available to farmers and landowners statewide. To date, the program has certified 832 farms totaling 566,862 acres.

Farmers learn about maxing return, cutting loss of nitrogen

nitrogen workshop

Nitrogen Smart is an educational program for producers that presents fundamentals for maximizing economic return on nitrogen investments while minimizing nitrogen losses. The U of M Extension classes have been offered through February at 14 locations statewide. The Nitrogen Smart: Fundamentals session delivers high-quality, research-based education. The Nitrogen Smart certification is valid for three years after participants complete the Fundamentals course. The Advanced Nitrogen Smart session is available to returning participants or to new participants that attend the Fundamentals course. Both are also available as an online course. The classes are free and no pre-registration required. Minnesota Corn Growers photo.

'Designer manure' - Customizing manure nutrients to meet crop needs - LPELC webinar

lpelc logo

After storage and handling, animal manures typically do not have crop nutrient ratios of N, P, and K that meet crop needs. This means that at least one nutrient will often be over- or under-applied. But what if we could create 'designer' manures to meet these needs? Organomineral fertilizers will be discussed along with ways to blend commercial fertilizers with manure in the 'do it yourself' fashion. The Feb. 24 Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center webinar archived here ends with a perspective from the custom organic fertilizer industry.


  • Paulo Pagliari, University of Minnesota
  • Glen Arnold, Ohio State University
  • Blaize Holden, Sustane
  • Melissa Wilson, University of Minnesota (moderator)

A schedule of future webinar presentations is available at:

Check out these videos on 'conservation at work'

farmers dot gov logo

A new video series from NRCS and, Conservation at Work, presents short and easy to understand videos about popular conservation practices. These videos feature producers explaining how an individual practice helps their land and why they are using it.

The videos shine the spotlight on farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners from across the U.S. who explain why they’ve implemented the conservation practices and how they work on their land. They also provide insight into how each practice is helping them protect and improve resources and save time and money.

MPCA Feedlot Program news

manure application

Manure application planner, rate guide updated

The pocket-sized Manure Application Rate Guide has recently been updated. The guide provides an easy-to-understand summary of manure application requirements including assistance with determining manure application rates. Hard copies are being printed and an electronic version is available on the MPCA website:

Updates to the MPCA Manure Management Planner have been completed. The updated version is available to download from the MPCA website Updates include incorporation of the latest University of Minnesota recommendations for Corn, addition of the ability to create a pdf of land application records for easy submittal with the annual report required for NPDES and SDS permitted sites, and repairs to a few bugs discovered in the previous versions.

County feedlot officer convention canceled

The 19th annual conference of the Minnesota Association of County Feedlot Officers scheduled for March 24-26 at the Broadway Ballroom in Alexandria has been canceled due to the Corona virus response. MACFO represents 50 counties participating in a cooperative arrangement with the MPCA and county government to administer Minnesota's feedlot rule.

Feedlot registration form slated to go online this spring

The MPCA is developing a new online service for registering livestock feedlots and manure storage areas. The new online registration service is expected to be available later in spring, to register a new site or update the registration of an existing site. Feedlot owners, operators, consultants, county and state inspectors will be able to use the new online service, which will be quick and easy to use. You’ll receive a confirmation email immediately after registering, which will serve as the registration receipt

Feedlot staff update

Dustin Kashmark of the feedlot program staff in the Detroit Lakes office is transferring to a water monitoring postion, creating a vacancy there. In the Marshall office, two feedlot program positions are in the process of being filled. A feedlot engineer position also remains to be filled. Map of feedlot staff county assignments. Lynne Hagen with U of M Extension is being contracted to assist with training for county feedlot officers about feedlot registration, creating a training video, MinnFARM, and nutrient management training. 


March 17-19: Midwest Poultry Federation convention, Minneapolis Convention Center.
March 20: Commercial Animal Waste Technician training, Steele County Four Seasons Center, Owatonna
March 31 and April 2: Feedlot permit virtual meeting, 10 a.m.-noon. Logon information TBA on MPCA feedlot permits webpage.
April 15: Animal Science Showcase, U of M-St. Paul campus, Cargill building.
April 24-26: Minnesota Horse Expo, State Fair coliseum.

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.