Simple process, big impact

Lake Benton farm the latest to get state water quality certification

Photos by Deb Gau Above: Bob Worth, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, talked about issues facing area soybean farmers with U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach. Below: Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen was one of the officials who spoke at Tuesday’s event.

LAKE BENTON — It was a simple process — but one that could have a big impact for Minnesota soybean farmers, Bob Worth said.

Worth, the president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and a Lake Benton area farmer, recently enrolled in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). The program gives farmers a chance to implement conservation practices in their fields, and get a 10-year certification deeming them in compliance with water quality rules.

Worth said a lot of those conservation practices are ones that Minnesota farmers may already be doing.

“It’s so simple. I don’t think people realize it,” Worth said of working through the certification program.

On Tuesday, a group of state and national officials, including Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen, state Sen. Bill Weber and U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach, visited the Worth family farm to talk about the certification program.

“The practices Bob and his family have put in place are essential for keeping water on the land,” Weber said. “It’s really important in a year like this.”

“This shows me that when we’re looking at policy in Washington, farmers are the first conservationists,” Fischbach said of the program.

Bureaucracy would not be able to address the needs of individual farms the way the farmers themselves can, Weber said.

The MAWQCP launched in 2016. Since then, the more than 1,000 farms totaling close to one million acres have been certified across Minnesota, Petersen said. The program expects to reach one million acres enrolled by the end of the year.

“It’s very exciting to see,” he said.

Farmers who go through the certification process work with local conservation district experts to mitigate risks to water quality in their fields. Producers going through the certification process have priority access to financial and technical assistance to help them, and when they are certified their farm is deemed in compliance with water quality laws and regulations for a 10-year period.

Petersen said the MAWQCP is “really a partnership,” involving state agencies like the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and funding from sources like the Farm Bill and Minnesota’s Legacy amendment.

Worth said he started working through the MAWQCP certification process about a year ago. Worth worked together with area certification specialist Danielle Evers.

“I didn’t know the process,” Worth said. He was surprised to learn that the water quality practices he would need in place in order to be certified were similar to those from the NRCS’s Conservation Stewardship Program.

“It fit it to a T,” Worth said. It also helped make the certification process “painless,” he said.

Worth said key conservation and water quality practices for his farm included following University of Minnesota recommendations on fertilizer use, having enough cover on his fields, and doing crop rotation and soil testing.

Going through the certification process made sense both for preserving soil and water quality on the farm, and for marketing crops, Worth said.

“The biggest benefit is making sure the soil is better than when I took the farm over,” Worth said.

Worth and Petersen said countries outside the U.S. are interested in learning how American crops are produced, and their environmental impact. Having water quality certification could also have a positive impact on marketing crops overseas.

“This program is going to help the whole state of Minnesota,” Worth said.

Worth thanked officials, NRCS and MSGA representatives for being there at Tuesday’s event, as well as his family. Worth grows soybeans and corn together with his son Jon, and his wife Gail.

“I want to say thank you to my family, because they work really hard together,” Worth said.


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