Nearly 800 farms are now participating in a state program to improve water quality

Nearly 800 farms are now participating in a state program to improve water quality

LAKE CRYSTAL, Minn. (KEYC) — Nearly 800 farms are now participating in a state program to improve water quality, as of Monday.

The Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program, which was first created in 2012, encourages farmers to protect water quality through their farming practices.

The program said 424 southern Minnesota farms are participating in the program.

This comes as farmers continue to face the unpredictability of the weather and the markets.

Lake Crystal farmer Kevin Poppel is certified under the program.

“The water quality certification is a huge portion of my operation now because of the management practices we’ve been able to put in place," he said.

The program works individually which each farm.

“Now it might manifest in the sense of maybe a hillside with higher erosion potential, so we want to address it maybe through tillage," Program Manager Brad Jordahl Redlin said.

Poppel said the program helped him with nitrogen management.

Nitrogen can have lasting effects in runoff if not managed properly.

“We then fixed our attention to other nutrients, because we know that with heavy rain events, we know with just regular soil erosion, that we can and will lose some of those nutrients," he said.

Poppel is implementing a systematic approach.

A soybean root for example, which was strip tilled, is longer because it only had to go to one spot to get the nutrients.

The program said its practices have prevented the loss of over 44,000 pounds (19.96 ton) of phosphorus per year and has saved over 99,000 tons of soil per year.

“When you look at our water quality, as a farmer, it’s something that is, I would beg to say it’s an emotional thing for us. The land is all we have," Poppel said.

The program does offer financial assistance to farmers through the form of grants of up to $5,000, which can be applied for online.

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