Minnesota water quality certified farms are reaping profits

Farms enrolled in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program last year saw profits 20% higher than non-certified farms.

Zumbro River.JPG
North Fork Zumbro River in Mazeppa, Minn. Noah Fish / Forum News Service

The findings in a recent study show that farmers enrolled in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) had higher profits than non-certified farms.

The MAWQCP is a voluntary program for farmers that protects the state’s water resources by putting them in touch with local conservation district experts to identify and mitigate any risks their farm poses to water quality. Farms that implement and maintain approved farm management practices earn certification, and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for 10 years. Producers going through the certification process have priority access to financial assistance.

The study, done by the Minnesota State Agricultural Centers of Excellence , examined financial and crop production information from farmers enrolled in the Minnesota State Farm Business Management education program. It marks the second year of data showing improved financial outcomes for the farms surveyed.

“The Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program is a double-win for the state,” said Thom Petersen, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “We see that certified farms have a major impact on our environment for the better, and now we also know that those farmers see better economic outlooks which helps our ag economy. I encourage all farmers and landowners to look into the advantages of certifying their land.”

The 64 MAWQCP farms in the study saw profits last year that were an average of $40,000, or 18% higher (median of $11,000) than non-certified farms. The 2019 data showed an average profit of $19,000, or 20% in higher profits (median of $7,000) for certified producers. Other key financial metrics such as debt-to-asset ratios and operating expense ratios were also better for farms enrolled in the MAWQCP.


“While this study is in its infancy, capturing two years of data and 3% of the Minnesota database, it does look encouraging that producers who are water quality certified enjoy an increase in farm profitability,” said Keith Olander, executive director of AgCentric. “As we expand this dataset in future years, we will look to incorporate enterprise level management data that may explain more about what is driving these profit levels.”

The program is on target to meet Gov. Tim Walz’s goal of enrolling 1 million acres by the end of 2022.

Since the program’s launch in 2016, 1,038 farms totaling over 734,000 acres have been certified across Minnesota. Farms have added 2,095 new conservation practices., which help to reduce of greenhouse gas emissions by over 40,500 metric tons each year. Annual saving is equal to 4.5 million gallons of gasoline, or 44.6 million pounds of coal or eliminating more than 100 million miles driven by an average passenger vehicle.

Farmers and landowners interested in becoming water quality certified can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District or visit . To view, download or request a copy of the recent report, visit .

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