Letter: We should all work to keep our water clean
By Chuck Uphoff, Melrose I want clean water to be part of my legacy, and I know most Minnesota farmers feel the same way. We want to ensure that our land is better off than when we began managing it, and that it will be able to support our childr...
By Chuck Uphoff, Melrose
I want clean water to be part of my legacy, and I know most Minnesota farmers feel the same way. We want to ensure that our land is better off than when we began managing it, and that it will be able to support our children and grandchildren and generations to come.
Access to clean water is important to everyone, but especially to farmers. On our rural Melrose crop-and-cattle farm, my family and I are constantly working to protect Minnesota’s soils and waters, including shifting to minimum tillage practices, incorporating cover crops to prevent erosion and planting hundreds of trees. We have made these changes to our operation, not only because they support our livelihood, but because it’s the right thing to do.
Our farm was among the first in the state to join a voluntary Minnesota program that’s helping us do everything we can to protect our state’s lakes, rivers and streams. The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program began in four pilot areas, including our Middle Sauk watershed in Stearns County, and has recently expanded to encompass all of the state’s watersheds.
We urge all farmers and agricultural landowners to join us in the program, especially in southwestern Minnesota, where soil and water management are so critical.
The certification program rewards stewards of our water and land by providing plans and cost-sharing for continued improvements, like upgraded waterways and well-designed buffer strips. The first step is an assessment process, which gauges how we’ve been doing in our conservation measures. And it pinpoints where we can do even more on our farm to protect soil and water.
To be sure, nothing is a one-size-fits-all program, and that’s the beauty of this program. From the hops farmer managing three acres to the 10,000-acre sugar beet producer, each farm receives individualized help and support to make improvements that will make the biggest difference for our waters. Even better, it gives farmers an opportunity to make substantial adjustments to their production systems and learn more about conservation practices in the process.
Once they are involved in the program, farmers are deemed to be following all water quality rules for 10 years, giving them time to complete desired improvements. Nearly 100 farms of all types have already been certified by the program, from larger-scale operations like ours, to farms raising organic produce for restaurants and sale at farmers’ markets.
Farmers should give this certification program a chance. It only takes a call to a local Soil and Water Conservation District office to begin the application process.
It’s my fervent hope that the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program expands to touch every agricultural acre in Minnesota. And I hope this mindset takes hold in all of our state’s households.
Consumers can help by taking a thoughtful approach to water conservation, protecting our waters from nutrients applied to lawns, chemicals applied to sidewalks and other practices that affect water quality. Farmers in the southwest and throughout the state won’t be the only winners with this water quality program - all of Minnesota’s citizens and businesses will benefit, too. Together, we can protect the abundant waters that help make Minnesota a great place to live and work.