Archive for the ‘agriculture’ Category

Free-market think tank backs conservation compliance

October 31, 2012

Read a free-market think tank’s argument for requiring conservation compliance in any expansion of federally subsidized crop insurance.

Enacting a conservation compliance provision in the now-stalled federal Farm Bill would require farmers receiving crop insurance to follow certain minimum conservation standards aimed at protecting wetlands and reduce erosion.

Those compliance provisions were required for farmers receiving direct-payment subsidies under the farm bill that expired Sept. 30, but they were not a requirement for participation in crop insurance.

Direct payments are virtually certain to be eliminated, probably in favor of an expansion of crop insurance, in the new Farm Bill that Congress is expected to enact later this year or in 2013.

The version of a new Farm Bill passed by the U.S. Senate in June included a conservation compliance requirement for crop insurance eligibility. The version approved by a House committee in July did not.

The R Street Institute, a Washington-based non-profit think tank that says it espouses free markets, limited government and responsible environmental stewardship, last month issued a policy statement supporting a conservation compliance requirement.

The policy statement argues that all farm subsidies should be eliminated, but says that is not politically realistic and that enactment of a conservation compliance provision is a “second best” outcome.

Read a 2011 newsletter column by Gene Merriam, Freshwater Society president,  supporting conservation compliance. View video from a 2011 Freshwater lecture in which Craig A. Cox of the Environmental Working group advocated conservation compliance.  Read an October Des Moines Register interview with U. S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in which Vilsack predicted Congress will not pass a conservation compliance provision.

Water, science and the environment

September 10, 2012

The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

Register now to attend Oct. 4 lecture on nitrogen pollution
Food production – the vast gains achieved over the last century, and the still-greater gains needed to feed a growing world population — is dependent on the availability of nitrogen in a chemical form that food grains and other plants can readily use.

Sources of reactive nitrogen

Millions of metric tons of reactive nitrogen entering the U.S. environment each year. Source: Reactive Nitrogen in the United States…A report to the EPA Science Advisory Board.

Paradoxically, the synthetic manufacture and application of nitrogen fertilizer causes significant water and air pollution. Burning fossil fuels releases the same form of nitrogen and causes the same problems for the environment and human health.

A 2011 report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said:

“Excess reactive nitrogen compounds in the environment are associated with many large-scale environmental concerns, including eutrophication of surface waters, toxic algae blooms, hypoxia, acid rain, nitrogen saturation in forests, and global warming. In addition, reactive nitrogen is associated with harmful human health effects caused by air pollution and drinking water contamination.”

On Thursday, Oct. 4, the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences will sponsor a free public lecture on the excess nitrogen issue.

Otto Doering, a Purdue University agricultural economist who chaired the committee of scientists that wrote the 2011 report to the EPA’s Science Advisory Committee, will deliver the lecture. His talk is titled Excess nitrogen: A Confounding Problem for Energy Use, Food Production, the Water We Drink and the Air We Breathe.

Register to attend the lecture. Read a q-and-a interview that Freshwater conducted with Doering. Read a PDF of the 140-page report from the EPA committee he led.

Save the dates: Public meetings on the environment set
Between Nov. 27 and Dec. 14, the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board will hold six meetings around the state to seek comment from citizens on the environment, environmental review and the state’s economy.

In an executive order last November, Gov. Mark Dayton directed the EQB to “evaluate and make recommendations for improved environmental governance and coordination.” Dayton also directed the EQB to prepare an “environmental and energy report card” examining the state’s performance and progress on protecting air, water and land.

In February, the EQB is planning to host an Environmental Congress that will examine that report card and recommend future policy.

As part of that whole process, the EQB has scheduled public-comment sessions in Rochester, Bloomington, Duluth, Worthington, St. Cloud and Moorhead. Learn more about the process and get the schedule of the meetings.

Plant life returns to fire-ravaged area of BWCA
A year ago the Pagami Creek fire roared across a trail to the canoe landing at Isabella Lake, an entry point on the southern edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, as 40 mph wind gusts drove the blaze an unprecedented 10 miles in one day.

Last summer’s fire scorched 145 square miles of forest, mostly in the Boundary Waters area. In the fall, the burn area was filled with charcoal-black trees and soil, but tiny blades of grass had started to poke through the ash.

Today, the trees still stand like black pipes, their exposed roots clawing the ground. But the forest floor is lush and colorful, with moose maple and wild sarsaparilla.

Despite a striking amount of new growth, forest managers have major concerns, among them a huge loss of organic matter and the presence of invasive plants that already are taking root.
–Minnesota Public Radio

An iconic valley, a historic dam, a looming vote
It is one of the oldest environmental battles in the United States, and it involves one of the country’s most famous national parks, one of its most liberal cities, leaders of Silicon Valley and a perennial source of conflict in California: water.

In 1913, Congress approved the construction of a dam and an eight-mile-long reservoir, called Hetch Hetchy, in the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park to supply cheap water to San Francisco.

But the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which submerged a valley that many have likened to Yosemite Valley in its grandeur and is credited with giving birth to the modern environmental movement, has lost none of its power to arouse strong emotions.
In November, San Francisco will vote on a measure that could ultimately lead to the draining and restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley — and force the city to look elsewhere for most of its water.
–The New York Times

U.S., Canada renew Great Lakes pact
The U.S. and Canada renewed a 40-year-old Great Lakes environmental pact, pledging stepped-up efforts to reduce pollution, cleanse contaminated sites and prevent exotic species invasions.

The updated Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement binds both nations to continue a cleanup and restoration initiative begun when the freshwater seas were a symbol of ecological decay. Many of their beaches were littered with foul algae blooms and dead fish. The Cuyahoga River, which flows into Lake Erie in Cleveland, was so choked with oil and chemicals that flames erupted on its surface in 1969.

The pact calls for further action on problems that inspired the original agreement three years after the embarrassing river fire and a second version in 1987. It pledges to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity” of the five lakes and the portion of the St. Lawrence River on the U.S.-Canadian border.
–The Associated Press

California groups sue to stop Mojave project
Four environmental groups filed a lawsuit  against San Bernardino County and an Orange County water district to challenge a controversial groundwater mining project in the Mojave Desert.

The crux of the lawsuit is the question of which agency should serve as lead on the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, which would pump 16 billion gallons of groundwater per year from ancient aquifers.

The Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club San Gorgonio chapter and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society contend the county should have led the environmental review of the project, not the Santa Margarita Water District in Mission Viejo, which has signed on as a future buyer of the water from Cadiz Inc.
–The Riverside Press-Enterprise

Farm drainage booming in Minnesota

September 4, 2012

Minnesota farmers are putting in drain tile at a breakneck pace, according to the Pioneer Press. Read the article by Dennis Lien and David Orrick. The report notes that in the Bois de Sioux Watershed District, one of the few places in the state where accurate data on the extend of tiling are available, 1558 miles of new tile were approved last year. At today’s high commodity prices, tiling is one of the best investments farmers can make to increase yields. But environmental critics say the tiling allows marginal land to be taken out of wildlife habitat and converted to corn and soybeans, and that drainage increases riverbank erosion.

Analysis: 23 million acres converted to cropland

August 7, 2012

High crop prices and crop insurance subsidies contributed to the conversion of more than 23 million acres of grass, wetlands and other animal habitat into fields of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and other crops between 2008 and 2011. That’s the conclusion of a new report by the Environmental Working Group and the Defenders of Wildlife.

Read the report, titled “Plowed Under.” It is based on a comparison of satellite images collected by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Read a Star Tribune article about the report.

“Plowed Under” says that more than 8.4 million acres of grassland, shrub land and wetlands were converted to plant corn, more than 5.6 million to raise soybeans and nearly 5.2 million to grow winter wheat. The conversion totaled 1.34 million acres in Minnesota, according to the Star Tribune.

In 2007, a General Accounting Office report, titled “Farm Programs Are an Important Factor in Landowners’ Decisions to Convert Grassland to Cropland,” reached some of the same conclusions about the incentives that farm subsidies and crop insurance gave farmers and ranchers to plow up grassland.

MN FarmWise aims to clean up, protect streams

August 6, 2012

The Freshwater Society and several partners are organizing a community-based farmer-to-farmer initiative designed to protect streams by supporting the voluntary adoption of conservation measures on agricultural lands. The project, MN FarmWise, has been planned over the last year by an advisory group that includes farmers and other agricultural professionals. It is a partnership between Freshwater, the National Park Service and the Cannon River Watershed Partnership. It is sponsored by The Mosaic Company Foundation. Read the Aug. 6 news release announcing the program’s launch.

Erodable land sought for conservation reserve

July 27, 2012

Minnesota farmers have an opportunity to receive federal payment to take – or keep – highly erodable land out of crop production.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency in Minnesota has announced a sign-up for up to 11,200 acres of erodable land eligible for payments under the Conservation Reserve Program.

Offers of land to receive payments under the program will be accepted until Sept. 30 or until the acreage allotment is filled.

“CRP is a voluntary program that has protected environmentally sensitive land for more than 25 years,” said Linda Hennen, the Farm Service Agency’s executive director in Minnesota. “This initiative will accept offers with an erosion rate of at least 20 tons per acre per year for new cropland or CRP acres that expire on September 30, 2012; however, existing grass stands that are not considered expiring CRP will not be considered eligible,” she said.

Producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA service center or visit FSA’s website for information regarding CRP.
–FSA News Release

Water level drops in Ogallala aquifer in Texas

July 23, 2012

The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published

Water level drops in Ogallala aquifer in Texas
In case we need another example of the disturbing ramifications of extreme drought for our future water security, we can look to recent news out of northwest Texas.

The High Plains Water District, based in Lubbock, recently reported that the 2011-12 drought drove groundwater levels in its sixteen-county service area to drop an average of 2.56 feet (0.78 meters) – the largest annual decline recorded in the last 25 years and more than triple the annual average for the last decade.

The lesson: as droughts intensify, our depletion of groundwater will pick up speed.
Water Currents, a National Geographic blog by Sandra Postel

Conservation takes hit in House ag bill

July 16, 2012

The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

House Farm Bill lacks conservation teeth
The U.S. House Agriculture Committee passed a new 10-year, $969 billion federal Farm Bill that makes deeper overall spending cuts and does less to encourage soil and water conservation than the Senate version of the legislation.

(An earlier version of this blog posting had two incorrect headlines. It is the House bill, not the Senate legislation, that is the weaker of the two versions on conservation.)

It now appears very likely the Senate and House will not agree on a compromise bill before the November election. Scores of farm programs currently are scheduled to expire after Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. But the Senate and House almost certainly will approve a stopgap extension of those programs.

Unlike the Senate bill passed last month, the House version would not require farmers to protect wetlands and maintain soil erosion plans on marginal land as a condition of qualifying for crop insurance. The House bill also cuts $3 billion – $1 billion more than the Senate legislation — in federal payments to farmers and ranchers through the Conservation Stewardship Program.

Read a  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition analysis focusing on conservation provisions in the bill. Read New York Times and Politico articles on the House committee action.  Read a 2011 column by Freshwater President Gene Merriam advocating for the conservation compliance requirement for crop insurance.

From the USGS' Water Science for SchoolsPlay a game, stretch your mind 
If you haven’t already looked at it, check out the expanded Freshwater web page for kids. It’s got games for kids and basic information about water that most adults can learn from, as well. Sources include the U.S. Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Parents, teachers, home-schoolers will find the page useful.

Pelican Lake zebra mussel infestation confirmed
Scuba divers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have found zebra mussels in Pelican Lake in Crow Wing County near Brainerd. They were found in two separate locations during a search of the lake on July 9.

The search was a follow-up to an intensive search last November after a single juvenile zebra mussel was found on a dock. The November search of the lake failed to turn up any additional mussels. DNR staff also asked the Pelican Lake Association to notify its members to report any suspect mussels, but no other zebra mussels were found in 2011.
–DNR News Release

Wisconsin court rejects local water rules 
The Wisconsin Supreme Court dealt a blow to environmentalists concerned about water pollution from huge livestock farms, when it said communities couldn’t set stricter standards than the state.

The ruling was believed to be the first decision by a state Supreme Court in about a half-dozen cases pitting neighbors and small farmers throughout the Midwest against so-called factory farms, which can have hundreds or even thousands of animals. Similar cases have been filed in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma, and the decision was closely watched.
 –The Associated Press

Duke research has implications for fracking
A study that found hydraulic fracturing for natural gas puts drinking-water supplies in Pennsylvania at risk of contamination may renew a long-running debate between industry and activists.

The report by researchers at Duke University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said a chemical analysis of 426 shallow groundwater samples found matches with brine found in rock more than one mile (1.2 kilometers) deep, suggesting paths that would let gas or water flow up after drilling.

While the flows weren’t linked to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the study found natural routes for seepage into wells or streams.

“The industry has always claimed that this is a separation zone, and there is no way fluids could flow” from the shale to the aquifers, Avner Vengosh, a professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and one of the study’s eight authors, said in an interview. “We see evidence of hydrologic connectivity.”
–Bloomberg News

Heat causing Minnesota fish kills
Record-setting heat may be contributing to fish kills in lakes across the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Natural summer fish kills are not unusual,” according to Brian Schultz, DNR assistant regional fisheries manager. “In the past several days, however, we’re getting increased reports of dead and dying fish in many lakes from around the state.”

Unusually warm weather has raised water temperatures of many shallow lakes. Schultz has received reports from DNR field staff of surface water temperatures in some lakes reaching 90 degrees, with temps at the bottom only a few degrees cooler where maximum depths are less than 10 feet.
–DNR News Release

DNR completes wolf hunt rules 
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource has finalized rules for Minnesota’s first regulated wolf hunting and trapping season this fall and winter.

There are several changes to what the DNR originally proposed in May as a result of input received since the proposal was announced.

“We changed the closing date for the late season from Jan. 6, 2013, to Jan. 31,” said Steve Merchant, DNR wildlife program manager. “We also tightened the wolf harvest registration requirement so we can more quickly close a zone based on harvest results.”

Another notable change is that the wolf range will be divided into three zones for the purposes of harvest targets, registration and season closure. The northeast zone and the east-central zone closely parallel the 1854 and 1837 treaty ceded territory boundaries. These zones will allow the state to allocate and manage wolf harvest in consultation with Indian bands that have court-affirmed off-reservation hunting rights. The northwest zone will be the other area open to wolf hunting. Only that portion of Minnesota where rifles are legal for deer hunting will be open for taking wolves.
–DNR News Release

Nitrate tests at Benton County Fair
Area residents who rely on their own wells for drinking water can have their water tested for nitrate contamination for free during two days of the Benton County Fair in Sauk Rapids.

The Benton Soil & Water Conservation District and Minnesota Department of Agriculture are conducting the nitrate clinic from 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 1 and 2.

The clinic will be at the SWCD’s fair booth in the Education Building. Nitrate is a common contaminant, particularly in shallow wells, dug wells and wells with damaged or leaking casings. Nitrates can come from fertilizers, animal waste and human sewage.
–The St. Cloud Times

Minnesota conservation reserve acres are declining

June 8, 2012

More than 100,000 acres of environmentally sensitive Minnesota farm land are likely to be removed this fall from the federal Conservation Reserve Program that pays farmers to idle land for 10 to 15 years.

Much of that land that now is planted in grass will be growing corn or soybeans next spring. The return of the land to row crops will continue a trend occurring in Minnesota, and across the country, since 2007.

And the trend – driven by federal budget constraints and high commodity prices that induce farmers to choose cropping over the yearly federal conservation payments – is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

“We’re looking at potentially losing 750,000 more acres in Minnesota within the next five year,” said Bill Penning, the supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources prairie habitat team.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced recently that it has approved 99,000 acres for re-enrollment or new enrollment in CRP in Minnesota. But that is only about one-third of the 290,000 acres on which CRP contracts expire on Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year.

The exact amount of land that comes out of CRP on Sept. 30 will be determined by how many farmers with land in a small subset of the program decide to remove from the conservation effort many relatively small tracts of land dedicated to practices that include stream buffers, uncropped wellhead protection areas, windbreaks and living snow fences.

Land idled for those kinds of practices currently totals about 43,000 acres in Minnesota.  All of that land could stay in CRP, but it is likely some of it will come out.

“It’s going to be well over 100,000 acres that’s going to come out of the program,” said Matt Holland, senior field coordinator for Pheasants Forever in Minnesota.

Across the country, CRP acres peaked at about 36.8 million acres in 2007. In 2008, Congress capped national participation in the program at 32 million acres.  The USDA has predicted that the current CRP enrollment of about 29.6 million acres will decline to 29 million in the new fiscal year.

Minnesota participation in CRP peaked at about 1.8 million acres in 2007 and has slowly declined since then to about 1.6 million this year.

To view state-by-state data on CRP contracts this year and over the next  years, click here, then scroll down to CRP Contract Expirations by State, 2012-2018.

Conservation Reserve acres to drop

May 29, 2012

The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

3.9 million acres accepted for Conservation Reserve
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on May 25 that the agency had accepted farmers’ requests to enroll 3.9 million acres of environmentally sensitive land into the Conservation Reserve Program next year. Those acres, which farmers will be paid to take out of production, will be more than offset by more than 6 million acres scheduled to come out of the  CRP program on Sept. 30. Read the USDA news release. A Des Moines Register article said Iowa will have a net gain of about 13,000 acres in the conservation program.

Information on the amount of Minnesota farmland going into, and coming out of, the CRP program was not immediately available. Nationwide about 30 million acres of farmland are currently in the CRP program.

Study: Groundwater use a risk to food supply
The nation’s food supply may be vulnerable to rapid groundwater depletion from irrigated agriculture, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere.

The study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, paints the highest resolution picture yet of how groundwater depletion varies across space and time in California’s Central Valley and the High Plains of the central U.S.

Researchers hope this information will enable more sustainable use of water in these areas, although they think irrigated agriculture may be unsustainable in some parts.

“We’re already seeing changes in both areas,” said Bridget Scanlon, senior research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology and lead author of the study. “We’re seeing decreases in rural populations in the High Plains. Increasing urbanization is replacing farms in the Central Valley. And during droughts some farmers are forced to fallow their land. These trends will only accelerate as water scarcity issues become more severe.”
–Science Daily

MPCA’s Stine talks policy 
Read an important Associated Press interview with John Linc Stine, the new commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. In the interview, Stine talks about agricultural runoff in the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers and prospects for copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Oil drilling in the Arctic
Read a New York Times article on oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Shell is scheduled to begin test drilling off the Alaskan coast in July.

A source of conservation news 
Do you follow news about soil and water conservation, especially in agricultural settings? Take a  look at SWCS Conservation NewsBriefs and consider subscribing. It is an electronic digest of new items published for members of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Taconite approved to fight phosphorus 
A Minnesota pollution-control panel has approved the dumping of 13.5 tons of taconite concentrate into a Chisago County lake to battle high levels of weed-producing phosphorus.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board gave the Rush Lake Improvement Association clearance Tuesday, May 22, to go ahead with the experimental project.

The panel signed off on it without requiring an informational review that an environmental group and other area residents had sought. “It’s a huge disappointment,” said Don Arnosti, policy director for Audubon Minnesota, which sought the review, an exercise that can lead to a more stringent examination. “In the end, they wimped out. It’s throwaway words in a public meeting. There are no consequences.”

The pollution-control board added a few stipulations, though, after some members openly wondered why such a review, called an environmental assessment worksheet, shouldn’t be conducted. The lake association has been trying for years to reduce levels of phosphorus, a nutrient that promotes algae growth when present in elevated concentrations. Common sources include animal waste and fertilizer.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Higher Grand Canyon river flows OK’d
The Interior Department announced a plan to allow periodic increases in the flow of Colorado River water through the Grand Canyon, alleviating the environmental disruption caused by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona in the 1960s.

The secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, said the plan would allow the river’s managers to release excess water — more than twice as much as average flows — through and over the hydroelectric dam at will to help propel silt and sediment downstream into the canyon.

By mimicking the river’s original dynamics, Interior Department officials said, the flows could help restore the backwater ecosystems in which native fish are most at home. The goal is partly to enhance sandbars that create backwaters for an endangered fish, the humpback chub. The excess sand also nourishes beaches used by wildlife, hikers and rafters.
–The New York Times

Pollution taints China’s groundwater 
Underground water in 57 percent of monitoring sites across Chinese cities have been found polluted or extremely polluted, the Economic Information Daily, a newspaper run by Xinhua News Agency, reported, quoting figures from the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The MEP statistics also suggest that 298 million rural residents do not have access to safe drinking water. In the first half of last year, of the seven main water systems in China, only the Yangtze and Pearl rivers had good water quality, and the Haihe River in north China was heavily polluted, with the others all moderately polluted, according to the MEP.

To address poor water quality, the MEP has decided to beef up protection of water sources.

Residents, farmers debate Wis. groundwater use
As a child, Barb Feltz spent her days along the Little Plover River, fishing for trout, playing in the water and muck, hunting for critters. Some years, those memories are about all that’s left of the Little Plover. As an adult she’s seen the water disappear, leaving a dry creek bed in 2009 and taking with it the opportunity for others to enjoy nature and form memories, like she did while growing up.
–The Northwestern

Some good news for the Atlantic
A new study by Rutgers University finds that New Jersey’s coastal waters are not as polluted as scientists had thought. Marine scientists studying pollution-sensitive sea creatures on the ocean floor since 2007 found their numbers and types indicate healthier water conditions than expected. The study involved scooping small animals from 153 ocean floor sites along New Jersey’s 127-mile coastline from Sandy Hook to Cape May.
–Bloomberg Businessweek

Soil erosion worsening 
There’s a lot of soil erosion so far this spring around Clarke McGrath. The Iowa State University Extension field agronomist near Harlan in western Iowa says it’s the worst it’s been in that area about 2 decades.

It’s come from a combination of factors, he says. First, rainfall has been spotty and extremely variable in that area, as it has been in many parts of the Corn Belt this spring. Long dry spells have been dotted with heavy rains, making for optimal erosion potential.

“We’ve had such unpredictable wild swings in weather. Rainfall, when it comes, seems to have amped itself up. We got 6 inches in 3 hours the other night. It’s been coming hard and fast,” he says.

So, Mother Nature’s definitely done her fair share. But, so have farmers. This year’s early start to spring has helped, McGrath says, but the way farmers have used their time this spring has worsened the erosion potential.

“We’ve done more tillage this year than any year I can remember. When we do any kinds of tillage on these highly erodible soils, it’s going to loosen that soil up and it’s going to make it susceptible to erosion,” McGrath says.

Ag $$ available for water improvement
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has $20 million available for low-interest loans to help farmers and rural landowners finance projects that prevent or reduce water pollution.

The funding is made available through the MDA’s Agricultural Best Management Practices (AgBMP) Loan Program and is available in all counties in the state. The AgBMP Loan Program works with Soil and Water Conservation Districts and local governments to help farmers, rural landowners and agriculture-related businesses solve pollution problems by offering loans at three percent interest through participating local lenders.

All practices that reduce water pollution are eligible, such as fixing septic systems, replacing contaminated wells, upgrading livestock facilities, constructing erosion control structures, purchasing conservation tillage equipment, improving chemical application and storage methods, and adopting other water-related best management practices.

The AgBMP Loan Program is based on a revolving loan structure where repayments from existing loans are reused to finance new loans. By continually revolving the repayments, the $70 million appropriated to the program has provided $170 million in loans to help finance projects costing more than $268 million.
–Tri-State Neighbor