The way Glen Haag sees it, full-time farming means doing the right things to not only support the family you have now, but also the generations to follow.
That’s why the Lewiston farmer became an early adopter of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. The state-federal initiative gives farmers and agricultural landowners the opportunity to voluntarily implement conservation practices that protect the state’s waterways.
The program is run by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, in partnership with other state and federal agencies.
State and federal officials signed a memorandum of understanding in January 2012, and by June 2014, the first farms in the pilot program were being certified.
Haag – who owns Chosen Acres with his wife, Tammy, and in-laws Dave and Kathy Rupprecht – was among the first in line. He says Tammy’s grandfather first started practicing conservation methods on his farm.
“Economics are important, but conservation is just as important,” says Haag, who serves as a member of the farmer-led council for the Whitewater Watershed Project and on the advisory committee for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. “To be able to pass your farm on to the next generation, you need to really take care of it.
“That’s how we do it on this farm, and how it’s been from the first generation through the third. We continue to try to pass it onto our kids,” says Haag, who has seven children.
Benefits For Landowners
Farmers and landowners who participate in the program can reap several benefits. Once certified, they receive regulatory certainty for 10 years, meaning they will already be in compliance with any new water quality laws or rules that may be written during that time.
“For some producers, that’s essentially an insurance policy,” says Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Brad Redlin, program manager for the water quality certification program. “They find it appealing to have that regulatory certainty. That’s something we, as a state, are very proud to give because they’ve earned it.”
Farmers also receive recognition, not only through a certificate suitable for framing and an outdoor sign, but also by obtaining a certain status to promote their operation as protective of water quality.
In addition, those who are going through the certification process are given priority for receiving technical and financial assistance to help them implement practices that promote water quality.
Perhaps the most significant benefit for farmers, however, is to have the knowledge they’re doing their part to improve Minnesota’s vast expanse of waterways.
“One of the primary and fundamental things – the key to recognition – is that they are absolutely part of the solution,” Redlin says “Frankly, they are the solution. We want to be able to find a way to recognize farmers who are doing great work.”
‘A Win-Win Deal’
To get their Chosen Acres farm certified, the Haags put in place nine new conservation practices that would help improve water quality and lessen runoff from their property. These were steps such as incorporating cover crops, adding contour buffer strips and building pond sediment structures, among others. Some were practices they already had in place.
“It’s quite a list, but it’s something we feel is important as far as being able to keep our ground and nutrients on the farm,” says Haag.
As the program progresses, officials hope an increasing number of farmers will want to participate.
“It’s a win-win deal,” Haag says. “It’s good for the public, and it’s good for the farmers. It’s kind of a cooperative effort. It’s an opportunity for farmers to do their part, their due diligence, in helping to make things better.”