U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will join Gov. Mark Dayton and members of Minnesota's congressional delegation in St. Paul on Monday to kick off a new project aimed at improving water quality.
The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is the first of its kind in the nation, state officials say.
It is designed to help farmers quickly transition to new agricultural practices that improve water quality. Farmers who volunteer to participate will not be required to implement additional water quality practices while they are certified, which will help farmers stay financially stable, state officials say. They also say the program is expected to bring more federal funding and technical conservation assistance to Minnesota farmers.
Dayton, Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson signed a memorandum of understanding in January 2012 to develop and implement the program.
The certification program is a state and federal partnership that includes the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service and the EPA.