Minnesota farmers may be protected from state chemical runoff regulations if they take part in a joint federal-state pilot program certification program that could be in place by the winter.
Work on designing a new program gets underway Monday when an advisory group meets for the first time, according to Minnesota Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Matt Wohlman.
The idea is to provide an incentive for farmers to do more to prevent soil and chemicals from running into streams and rivers. Certified farmers would be protected from new state regulations.
Wohlman said farmers want to invest in good practices, but they want to know their investments will serve them for the long haul, "so it provides them some certainty in the regulatory environment but it also provides the public a lot of benefit in terms of cleaning up water quality, in terms of being able to see measurable results over time."
If participating farmers meet those best practices, "then we provide them the regulatory certainty that we wouldn't ask them to do anything else for perhaps a period of perhaps 10 years," Wohlman said.
Farmers currently face very limited regulations, but Wohlman said they're worried stricter rules may be coming.