Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program wins Environmental Initiative Award 

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and their partners were selected as a winner for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program in the Food Stewardship category at the 2015 Environmental Initiative Awards. This program annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by harnessing the power of partnership. Winners were announced at the Environmental Initiative Awards celebration on Thursday, May 21, in Minneapolis. 

MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson said, “This award is a testament to the strong partnerships needed to address Minnesota’s environmental challenges. Our federal, state, local, private and nonprofit partners have been invaluable in the development and implementation of this program and we look forward to our continued partnership helping farmers protect Minnesota’s water resources.” 

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. Farmers and landowners who implement and maintain approved farm management practices are certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. 

Over the past eight months, agricultural operations at 41 farms representing more than 23,000 acres of land have been certified. More than 145 new conservation practices that protect Minnesota’s waters from nonpoint source pollution have also been implemented. The goal is to deliver certification services to all agricultural producers in the state within five years. 

“Each spring we gather to recognize individuals, organizations, businesses and communities who have joined forces to create a better environment for all Minnesotans. It’s really important to celebrate and share these success stories – because working together is hard work and isn’t always easy,” says Environmental Initiative’s Executive Director, Mike Harley. 

About Environmental Initiative

Environmental Initiative is a nonprofit organization that builds partnerships to develop collaborative solutions to Minnesota’s environmental problems. The organization brings together leaders from nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies to find consensus on critical issues and respond with actions that have measurable, positive environmental outcomes (http://www.environmental-initiative.org/).


In 2013, the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) was selected by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to become one of the pilot areas to develop the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). The MDA is piloting this program in four watersheds across the state to improve the program with local input. Pilot areas are located in four distinct regions of the state; these areas represent a diversity of Minnesota’s agricultural landscapes and cropping systems, differences in water resource concerns and also leverage the strength of existing local partnerships.

The pilot area within the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District is the Whiskey Creek / Wilkin County Ditch No. 31 watershed located in Otter Tail and Wilkin Counties.  The BRRWD and the Wilkin SWCD and West Otter Tail SWCD have teamed up to complete this pilot project.  A map of the pilot area can be seen by clicking on the following link:

Pilot Area Map 

The MAWQCP is a voluntary program designed to accelerate adoption of on-farm practices that protect Minnesota’s lakes and rivers.  Producers who implement and maintain approved farm Management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of 10 years.  Certainty is an assurance that producers who voluntarily implement conservation practices consistent with the state’s water quality goals will be recognized for their effort.  The state agencies responsible for implementing agriculture and water quality regulation will recognize certified producers as already meeting any new pollution reduction requirements that may be developed during their term of certification.

 This program certifies producers for managing the land within an agricultural operation in a way that protects water quality. Agricultural operations are assessed based on:

  • Physical field characteristics
  • Nutrient management
  • Tillage management
  • Pest management
  • Irrigation and drainage management
  • Conservation practices

If you have any land within one of the pilot watersheds, you are eligible to participate in the program and to enhance the program with your feedback.  If the assessment identifies additional conservation actions the producer may choose to implement, priority technical and financial assistance will be available to producers seeking certification. Landowners should contact their local SWCD or the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District for more information.


The BRRWD was awarded Clean Water Fund (CWF) Grants through the Board of Water and Soil Resources to develop the MAWQCP in the Whiskey Creek / Wilkin County Ditch No. 31 watershed and to provide incentives to producers with land within the pilot area.  

2014 Clean Water Fund Grant Projects


MAWQCP Incentive Grant