4/20/2017 3:54:00 PM First Chisago County farm in the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification program
Pictured Ryan Clark (MAWQCP Area Certification Specialist), Debra Hermel (NRCS District Conservationist), Jim Birkholz (Chisago SWCD Board Chair), Dale Fredrickson (Landowner), and Shane Hultman (Chisago SWCD Technician).
The Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is excited to announce that Chisago County has its first farm certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). This voluntary program works with farmers and landowners to identify and mitigate risks to water quality on a field by field basis. To date, the MAWQCP has certified 365 farms across Minnesota, representing virtually every kind of agricultural production.
The first Chisago County farm certified is owned by Dale Fredrickson and is located in Lindstrom. The Fredrickson farm is about 85 acres and produces corn and soybean crops. Fredricksonhas been a leader in implementing numerous soil health programs on his farms, practices include no-till farming and cover crops along with implementing an integrated pest management plan. As part of the MAWQCP Dale plans to incorporate wheat back into his rotation and reduce his phosphorus usage during planting down to the University of Minnesota standards.
Fredrickson worked closely with Ryan Clark, the MAWQCP Area Certification Specialist. “Dale’s farm is a good test for any water quality program,” Clark said. “He has been a conservation innovator in the farming community for some time. It was interesting to see how well his practices lined up with the state standards and recommendations, and it is very fitting that Fredrickson be the first water quality certified farm in Chisago County.”
When asked why he signed up for the program, he said, “I wanted to get certified just to know that I’m doing a good job. Farming is important to me, and so is the water. I live in an area where lakes are a big deal, so I don’t want to be contributing anything that would hurt the lakes. This certification program was good feedback.”
The program is administered through the MN Department of Agriculture (MDA) in partnership with the Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR), the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Minnesota’s 89 Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD). The program helps to recognize and reward farmers for their work protecting Minnesota’s important natural resources, soil and water.
When a farmer applies to the program, they don’t need to be perfect to start with. A staff person with the program will use an Assessment Tool to look at everything including soil tests, nutrient application procedures, pesticide applications, and active erosion on the site. A site visit will be conducted as part of the assessment. The farm will get a report, or a sort of grade, on how well the farm is currently performing in terms of water quality. In the areas that are not meeting the program standards, staff can guide the farmer in what needs to be done to get up to the standard. Once the farm has met the standards in all areas, it will be certified as a Water Quality Certified Farm.
After being certified, each farm is deemed in compliance with new water quality laws and regulations for 10 years. Certification is also an approved practice farmers can use to comply with the new state buffer law. Certified farmers and landowners can use their certification status to promote their businesses as protective of water quality.
The 365 total farms in Minnesota that are already certified by the MAWQCP represent over 214,000 acres of working lands. To date, these farms have generated 637 new best management practices that are keeping 19.1 million pounds of soil on Minnesota fields annually, and keeping 13.5 million pounds of sediment and 8,212 pounds of phosphorous from entering lakes, rivers, and streams annually.
Those interested in the program can contact Shane Hultman with the Chisago SWCD office (651-674-2333) or visit http://chisagoswcd.org