New pilot project aims to address water quality concerns

By Sara Wyant

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2015 - A new initiative aims to bring farmers, input providers, government leaders and advocacy groups together to address water quality concerns while still increasing on-farm productivity in Minnesota, known as the land of 10,000 lakes.

During an all-day symposium on food and agricultural policy today, leaders from AGree and the  Minnesota AgriGrowth Council announced that they will focus on finding grassroots solutions to water quality concerns and establish metrics for measuring sustainability. The partners will initially provide $150,000 in funding for the effort but hope to attract additional funders.

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“We have a critical need for local agricultural leaders to step up and engage others,” said Kristin Weeks Duncanson of Duncanson Growers told Agri-Pulse. “By bringing together farmers, the supply chain, non-profits and government to work at the watershed level, we can have a real impact and hopefully spark interest in other states.” Duncanson serves as an Advisor to AGree and on the AgriGrowth Board of Directors.  

The Minnesota Working Lands Conservation Partnership (MWLCP) will select several key pilot watersheds in Minnesota over the coming months. Partners will focus on engaging farmers and the supply chain on a watershed level to develop grassroots solutions to water quality concerns, establishing metrics for measuring sustainability, and positioning farmers to increase on-farm productivity, the group said in a press release.

Joe Martin, with Martin + Co, LLC, has been selected to serve as project director to lead this effort in Minnesota. Martin has deep experience and leadership in production agriculture, agribusiness, and government related to agricultural systems and water/conservation. He has worked with the Farm Bureau, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association, and most recently with DuPont Pioneer in Mankato.


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Minnesota is the first state to move forward as part of the AGree Working Landscapes Initiative. But AGree made clear that the initiative may also move into other states.

“Minnesota has thousands of farm operators and more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies in the food and agriculture sector,” said Perry Aasness, Executive Director of AgriGrowth. “Minnesota is well-positioned to help lead this effort because of our state's reliance on agriculture and our understanding of these important issues. The initiative will build on the success of farmers to enhance productivity and help deliver good data to understand and improve best practices related to water.”

Indiana farmer and former Deputy U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Jim Moseley, who serves as AGree Co-Chair, emphasized the peer to peer aspect of the pilot project.

“Farmers in WLCP watersheds can decide what they expect of each other. We can continue to build the important relationship between conservation practices and farming systems, environmental outcomes and production. I'm confident that our collective actions can create improvements across watersheds that individuals alone cannot achieve.”

More information about AGree is available here. More information about the MWLCP can be found here. More information about Minnesota AgriGrowth can be found here.

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