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Published January 17, 2012, 05:26 PM

Ag pollution prevention program tested in Minn.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota farmers could share up to $10 million as part of a federal pilot program aimed at encouraging conservation and reducing agricultural pollution, officials said Tuesday.

By: Associated Press, Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota farmers could share up to $10 million as part of a federal pilot program aimed at encouraging conservation and reducing agricultural pollution, officials said Tuesday.

Details on how the new program will work remain sketchy, including how money will get distributed and to whom. It’s also unclear what conservation practices will qualify for the additional federal assistance.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson and Gov. Mark Dayton announced the framework in St. Paul.

In essence, farmers would get special certification, technical assistance and government aid if they voluntarily agree to follow land management practices to reduce soil erosion and runoff of fertilizers, pesticides and manure into streams and groundwater.

Vilsack said one incentive will be certainty because once the rules are set they won’t change during the life of the agreements.

The guidelines will be developed by regulators in consultation with groups representing farmers, environmental interests and others.

Minnesota already has a high participation rate in conservation programs, but officials say efforts could be better pinpointed.

Paul Aasen, head of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said the goal is to come up with a laundry list of conservation practices with proven results.

“If we do this, then we get that,” he said.

Dayton administration officials said meetings with stakeholders could begin as soon as next week.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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