Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock

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Ag Water stewardship

March 2021

MPCA launches updated water quality trading guide

water quality trading revier

A new guide published by the MPCA offers details about trading as a market-based tool for achieving improved water quality. It provides a mechanism and legal framework for regulated sources of wastewater and stormwater to form watershed-based water quality restoration and protection partnerships including agriculture. It provides more flexibility and cost savings to permittees, reduces pollution from all sources, and achieves greater environmental benefits than using regulatory measures alone. Learn more on the MPCA Water quality trading web pages. Photo: The Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative uses trading to offset its phosphorus discharges. One of its trade projects established filter strips and stabilized the banks along the East Fork of Beaver Creek to prevent erosion.

Feedlot Update: Operating permits status, annual reports

feedlot update logo

Permit applications await online service; on paper if needed immediately

Due to the increased efficiencies expected when the online permit application service becomes available, the MPCA is now only accepting NPDES or SDS permit applications for construction, expansion, or other modifications that cannot wait until the new service is available. A paper permit application form for these critical activities can be requested from your regional MPCA feedlot staff. Progress continues on the development of an online permit application service. Internal testing of the system will begin shortly, with release to the public in the coming months. A firm date for public access to the new service is not yet available.

Preliminary permit application form temporarily authorizes operation under expired permit

Sites with permit coverage under the NPDES general permit that expired Jan. 31, 2021, are authorized to operate under the expired permit if they have completed and returned a preliminary application form indicating their intent to apply for permit coverage when the new online permit application service becomes available. Sites wishing to switch permit coverage from NPDES to SDS permit should also complete the preliminary application form to authorize continued coverage under the now-expired NPDES general permit, and then apply for SDS permit coverage when the online permit application service becomes available. The preliminary application form and other permit documents are found on the 2021 NPDES general permit webpage.

Missed annual report March 1 deadline? Send in now 

Feedlots with NPDES or SDS operating permits that did not submit annual reports by the March 1 deadline should do so soon. The form is available on the MPCA feedlot NPDES-SDS permit webpage. Download the form (wq-f3-22b), fill out the Word version, and e-mail the completed report as a PDF document to the address provided on the form. Cover letters that accompany permits include the e-mail address of your MPCA staff contact, or call your MPCA regional office for assistance. So far the MPCA has received about 75 percent of the approximately 1,300 reports expected.

All land application records for the 12-month period starting Sept. 1, 2019, through Aug. 31, 2020, must be submitted as part of the report and on the included forms. For farms that do not transfer manure, land application records can also be generated and submitted using the MPCA excel-based Manure Management Planner under Create Crop Year Records. A link to the planner is located on the feedlot program Nutrient and Manure Management webpage. Annual reports provide valuable information for determining compliance with Minnesota’s feedlot rules. Failure to submit annual reports by the March 1 deadline may result in an enforcement action from the MPCA.

County feedlot officer annual meeting online March 25

The Minnesota Association of County Feedlot Officers (MACFO) will conduct its annual meeting via Zoom on March 25. MACFO represents counties participating in a cooperative arrangement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and county government to administer Minnesota's feedlot rule. County feedlot programs are responsible for the implementation of feedlot rules and regulations, except for state and federal operating permits (50 counties as of January 2021, including most of the major livestock counties). MACFO is an official affiliate organization with the Association of Minnesota Counties.

How you can weigh in on state water quality standards review

water standards

Every three years, states are required to review their water quality standards and provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the need for any changes or additions. The MPCA is conducting a review with a public comment period continuing through April 8, 2021. To learn more and share your opinion:

Water quality-certified farms roster surpasses 1,000

water storage

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) has reached the milestone of enrolling more than 1,000 farmers and landowners from across the state. Now, more than 715,000 acres of land are helping to protect the state’s water resources. With agriculture being the state's primary land use, sufficient best management practices are needed to protect water quality from excess nutrients and sediment in runoff. Since the start in 2014, the program has:

  • Added more than 2,050 new conservation practices
  • Kept near 38,500 tons of sediment out of Minnesota rivers
  • Saved 110,000 tons of soil and 48,500 pounds of phosphorous on farms
  • Reduced nitrogen losses by up to 49 percent
  • Reduced the equivalent of over 39,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year

The program is on target to meet Governor Tim Walz’s goal of enrolling one million acres by the end of 2022. Read more.

MAWQCP Insider newsletter for March

MDA offers cash for on-farm nutrient management field trials

Nutrient management

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Management Initiative offers farmers and crop advisers a simple tool that can lead to improved fertilizer efficiency and improved water quality. After completing plot harvest and submitting the required forms, farmers and crop advisers are compensated for their time and receive a summary and analysis of their results. For more information and to see past results visit: Nutrient Management Initiative. Consider registration this year, or add it to thoughts for the future. Registration closes March 15, 2021, or until registration is full. Proper N management (addressed in the NMI) is discussed in Minnesota's Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Minnesota-specific cover crop guide available online

cover crops

Farmers interested in cover crops should check out a new online tooll from the Minnesota Office for Soil Health (MOSH). Increasing cover crops is among the agricultural best management practices for water quality listed in the Minnesota Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Using an interactive map you can find local cover crop help, view maps of cover crop use, and read through summarized Minnesota local cover crop research. A guide asks four questions to determine how cover crops can be added to your operation. All of these resources are easy to use and available on the University of Minnesota Office for Soil Health website. The Minnesota Cover Crop Guide is supported by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture with Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment funds.

10,500-head Grace Dairy environmental review under way

jersey cows

Riverview Farms proposes to build a 10,500-head dairy farm in Section 23 of Grace Township, Chippewa County. About 23 miles west of Willmar on the south side of State Highway 40, Grace Dairy will house Jersey cows in a total confinement, free-stall barn. Earthen basins, with impermeable covers, will collect and store liquid manure and wastewater. The draft permit and environmental review worksheet (EAW) public notice dates will be announced in a forthcoming news release.

Agriculture stewardship research news


Rules and tools about manure

Representatives from Minnesota and Wisconsin shared the latest tools that help farmers spread manure safely and appropriately according to the current standards and guidelines. George Schwint of the MPCA along with Dustin Goering of NOAA and Paul Daigle of Marathon County, Wisconsin Conservation, Planning and Zoning participated in a webinar, hosted by the Minnesota Agriculture Water Resource Center. Find Minnesota's 'rules and tools' here.

Smart manure management 

Smart manure management - innovative practices that are showing great potential to improve our food production system will be the topic of discussion at the SWROC’s March Advancing Ag webinar 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 24. Read the blog post

Edge of field monitoring

We know that runoff from manured fields can contain nutrients, but how much? This webinar discusses results of edge of field studies measuring nitrogen and phosphorus losses at different rates of application, from both manure and fertilizer, with different timing and placement in Ohio. Results of a 20 year-long poultry manure and water quality study in Iowa will also be shared. Access the archived version at the Webinar Archive  

Video: Can cover crops reduce nitrate loss in tile drainage?

Nitrate loss in surface water and groundwater is an increasingly important water quality and environmental issue in Minnesota. An ongoing study at Waseca is looking at whether planting cover crops is a viable strategy to reduce nitrate loss in agricultural tile drainage systems. Learn more. YouTube recording of the Jan. 14, 2021, Southern Research and Outreach Center Virtual Winter Crops Day:

In the news

The 20 best places to tackle US farm nitrogen pollution

Science Daily, Feb. 17, 2021 - A pioneering study of U.S nitrogen use in agriculture has identified 20 places across the country where farmers, government, and citizens should target nitrogen reduction efforts. The 20 nitrogen 'hotspots of opportunity'-- which appear on a striking map -- represent a whopping 63% of the total surplus nitrogen balance in U.S. croplands, but only 24% of U.S. cropland area. Nitrogen inputs are so high in these areas that farmers can most likely reduce nitrogen use without hurting crop yields.

Proposed revisions to conservation practice standards open for public comment

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service  is seeking public comment through April 8 on proposed revisions to 23 national conservation practice standards through a posting in the Federal Register. NRCS offers a variety of conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Learn more on the NRCS Conservation Practices webpage or by viewing the Conservation at Work video series.

Send the news

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