At a Whitewater Watershed Joint Powers Board meeting today, Minnesota Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture Matt Wohlman explained a new ag water certification program his department is rolling out this year. The Whitewater is one of four Minnesota watersheds chosen to “test run” the program, which rewards farmers for practicing good water stewardship.
Board members with decades of experience listened carefully as Wohlman described how the program was developed, and what his department hopes it will achieve. In a sea of programs and often uncoordinated incentives, federal and state agencies are working together this time to create an environment of trust and local leadership. Board members who’ve seen programs come and go had questions. How is this different? Is it just one more set of rules for farmers to follow? Wohlman focused on solid practices and the idea of certainty. If, in good faith, a farmer commits to best practices and does what can be done to follow them, he/she will not be liable for water contamination beyond his/her immediate control.
Behind this solid idea, farmers in the Whitewater will help the Department see gaps and work out kinks in the next couple of years. As the meeting closed heads nodded, thanks were said and talk turned to soggy fields and late-season planting.