One million acres enrolled in Minnesota’s voluntary agricultural water quality program

Governor Tim Walz celebrates one million acres enrolled in voluntary agricultural water...
Governor Tim Walz celebrates one million acres enrolled in voluntary agricultural water quality program. The Governor made the announcement at the farm of Eric Heins of Altura.(Valley News Live)
Published: Nov. 7, 2023 at 9:52 AM CST
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MINNESOTA (Valley News Live) - Minnesota farmers and landowners have enrolled one million acres in a voluntary agricultural water quality program, achieving a goal Governor Tim Walz set in December 2020. The Governor made the announcement at the farm of Eric Heins of Altura. Heins represents one of the 1,400 farmers who’ve become certified since the program began in 2014.

“This program ensures our lakes, rivers, and drinking water are protected for future generations,” said Governor Walz. “Farmers understand the need for this better than anyone – their bottom line depends on conservation and a stable climate. Our farmers are stewards of our natural resources, and they’re stepping up in a big way to implement sustainable practices that will protect the water, land, and community around them.”

“I can’t think of an area in Minnesota where water quality could be more important than right here on the bluffs above the Mississippi River,” said Eric Heins. “When farming in an area where any excess water runs directly to a stream or river, we have to be sure that the water is as clean as possible if it leaves our farm. The Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program helps us do that.”

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a voluntary program for farmers and landowners that protects the state’s water resources. To date, Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality certified farms have added over 2,700 new conservation practices that protect Minnesota’s waters.

Walz says new practices have kept nearly 48,000 tons of sediment out of Minnesota rivers while saving 141,000 tons of soil and 59,000 pounds of phosphorous on farms each year. The conservation practices have also reduced nitrogen loss up to 49% and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50,000 tons per year.

“We’re excited to hit this million-acre milestone and recognize all the farmers and landowners that have stepped up to become part of the Ag Water Quality Certification Program,” said Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. “This is a unique program that allows farmers to highlight their conservation work, get access to funding assistance, and ensure they are compliant with the latest regulations. I encourage farmers and landowners to look into the advantages of certifying their land.”

The MAWQCP puts farmers in touch with local conservation district experts to identify and mitigate any risks their farm poses to water quality. Producers going through the certification process have priority access to financial assistance. After being certified, each farm is deemed in compliance with new water quality laws and regulations for 10 years.

There are also extra endorsements available to water quality certified producers for climate smart practices, integrated pest management, irrigation, soil health, and wildlife. These endorsements celebrate farmers and landowners who are going above and beyond to implement conservation efforts on their land.

Farmers and landowners interested in becoming water quality certified can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District or visit