SWCD News and Updates
2021 Walk In Access Signup Announced! March 2021
The Minnesota Walk-In Access (WIA) program continues to offer opportunities for hunters to have access to excellent habitat for outdoor recreation.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) programs protect Minnesota’s endangered prairie habitats to ensure, rare and unique native species of plants and animals have the necessary habitats to be successful and thrive in the landscape. These lands are privately owned. Hunters who purchase of a $3 WIA validation along with their hunting license are allowed access to these CRP and RIM lands to hunt game species. Open season on WIA posted lands runs from September 1 to May 31 of the following year. Access is permitted by hunters from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset during active hunting seasons. While a landowner retains rights to allow or prohibit motorized vehicle access, trapping, fires, camping, and other recreational activities, they are not permitted by the WIA validation by itself.
The WIA program compensates landowners for allowing access of validated individuals onto their private lands for a one to three-year long agreement. Landowners are protected under Minnesota Law for public hunting liability. No WIA boundary may be closer than 500 feet from a building or livestock. Grazing is acceptable in the off season.
Several successful WIA signups and plentiful hunting seasons the past few years have led to hundreds of Yellow Medicine County acres being available for use by the public. Beginning March 15, 2021 through May 14, 2021, interested landowners can re-enroll and sign up new acres into the program. The WIA field boundaries are determined by the landowner and need to be a minimum of 40 acres. There are incentive payments for specific qualifications. Landowners can get a minimum payment of $10 per acre, with an additional dollar per acre incentive payment for: multi-year contract, being within ½ mile of another WIA or public Hunting land, and being over 140 ac with a maximum payment of $13 per acre. Contact Kurt Johnson at the Yellow Medicine SWCD to get signed up in the 2021 window.
LOCAL CONSERVATION EFFORTS TOP $5 MILLION
Since 1950, the Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has utilized local, state, and federal funding to implement conservation on the 485,000 acres that make up Yellow Medicine County spanning over fifty miles from Gary, South Dakota to Granite Falls, Minnesota and north and south of that line a few miles. Leveraged against matching funds from the people that the SWCD serves, funding has paid for dozens of various conservation practices. The practices mitigate or prevent impacts to soil and water quality and quantity.
The end of 2020 marked seven ongoing decades of these efforts. In that time, over $5 million dollars have been invested in to individual voluntary practices. Tens of millions in additional funding for conservation easements and federal conservation programs has also provided incentive and risk mitigation as conservation partners implement management practices and try innovative practices.
Perhaps the most astounding feat of the SWCD and its partners is that over half of the funding of the past seventy years was implemented from 2010 through 2020. This can be attributed to the will of the majority of Minnesota voters to tax an extra 3/8 of a cent on purchases to dedicate to land, arts, and water focuses in the election of 2008. This was such a priority that votes approved adding this commitment to the state’s constitution through the year 2034.
Watershed focused implementation has been the statewide approach over the last ten to fifteen years. The Yellow Medicine River Watershed and surrounding areas saw one of the first approved Comprehensive Watershed Management Plans, also called One Watershed One Plan, in the entire state. Upwards of $1.5 million has been set aside for science based, and locally set priorities. Unprecedented work is underway on engineered and farm management practices across the area stretching from Montevideo to Delhi to Ivanhoe, MN. Beginning in early spring 2021, local government officials, staff, and interested members of the public will begin the same planning process for the Lac qui Parle River Watershed. This area roughly covers the western quarter of Yellow Medicine County. The public are encouraged to reach out about offering advisory to the science and policy focus areas of the plan.
It has been said that the SWCD is a broker or quarterback of conservation efforts. Depending on the situation, those who seek our assistance need help with technical expertise, financial resources, or simply education about old or new ways of doing things with regard to the natural resources of their farm, residence, or community.
SWCD SUPERVISORS REELECTED January 2021
Last fall, among the national attention to presidential and other state and local elections, three Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) seats saw uncontested races on the ballot. Delon Clarksean, of Canby, and Tom Remmele, of rural Echo, were elected to second terms on the board of supervisors. Jerry Nelson, of rural Granite Falls, was elected to a fourth term. While Supervisors represent a defined area of the county separated by township boundaries, all voters in the county are able to vote for candidates across the entire county.
Any eligible voter residing in a Soil and Water Conservation District is eligible to run and serve as an SWCD Supervisor. Empowered by Minnesota Statute 103C, Soil and Water Conservation Districts have powers to do intentional work across the State of Minnesota. SWCDs are funded by funds from taxpayers of Yellow Medicine County and the State of Minnesota. Occasionally, the SWCD also receives funds from the federal government for work on programs. In the Yellow Medicine SWCD, the Supervisors’ role is to set policy and hire a staff to implement conservation programs and services. The SWCD will celebrate seventy-one years of service on April 17 of the new year. The SWCD was duly organized on April 17, 1950 according to the laws of Minnesota.
Clarksean was first elected in 2016 to represent District 5. This area is the townships of Florida, Fortier, Hammer, and Norman. The hilly country with a mix of grassland and cropland on the land is the western most in Yellow Medicine County bordering South Dakota. Canby, MN and the unincorporated community of Burr are in District 5. District 1 is represented by Tom Remmele and has been since 2016 as well. The four southeastern most townships; Wood Lake, Sioux Agency, Echo, and Posen have abundant highly productive cropland and the communities of Echo and Wood Lake. Nelson’s District 2 covers the Upper Sioux Community and Granite Falls, MN. It also stretches from the Minnesota River bordered townships of Minnesota Falls and Stony Run to Lisbon township bordering Lac qui Parle County. Jerry Nelson is the longest serving member of the board with a fourth term beginning in January 2021.
There are five SWCD supervisors up the board of Yellow Medicine. Darwyn Bach was first elected in 2014 and was reelected in 2018. Bach, of rural St. Leo, represents the largest district, number 4. District 4 covers the six townships of Oshkosh, Omro, Tyro, Wergeland, Burton, and Swede Prairie. The communities of Porter and St. Leo are represented as well in District 4 along with the vastly natural or restored Spring Creek watershed. Elmo Volstad was appointed to the Yellow Medicine SWCD Board of Supervisors in early 2020 to fill a vacancy. The 3rd District will be represented by Volstad until at least the general election of 2022. Residing near the confluence of the Yellow Medicine River and Spring Creek, Volstad represents the townships of Friendship, Hazel Run, Normania, and Sandnes. The district also includes the towns of Clarkfield, Hazel Run, and Hanley falls.
Aquatic Invasive Species Don’t Take the Winter Off December 2020
Minnesotans love their lakes. They are a place to recreate, to relax and to spend valuable time with family and friends. They are one of Minnesota’s greatest assets and a reason we all love to live here.
As winter comes and lakes freeze, the activity on Minnesota lakes doesn’t stop. Thousands of anglers take to the ice, drill holes and continue to enjoy the sport of fishing with friends and family.
The threat of aquatic invasive species however, doesn’t go away when the lakes begin to make ice. Zebra Mussels, Eurasian Water Milfoil and other invasive species can still be easily spread when your ice fishing, please take the steps needed to slow and stop the spread of invasive species in your lakes:
Inspect ice fishing equipment and remove all aquatic plants and animals before leaving the ice.
Dispose of unwanted bait including minnows, leaches and worms in the trash. It is illegal to release bait into a water body or release aquatic animals from one waterbody into another.
If you want to keep your bait you must refill the bait container with bottled or tap water
Remember, it’s up to all of us to prevent the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species in Minnesota. Protect our lakes, stop the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species.
If you want to learn more about Aquatic Invasive Species, including species information, infested waters list and more go to
NATIONAL FARMER SURVEY DOCUMENTS A WIDE RANGE OF COVER CROP BENEFITS AS ACREAGE CONTINUES TO EXPAND
Despite the crippling rainfall that significantly delayed planting across much of the country in 2019, more than 90% of farmers participating in a national cover crop survey reported that cover crops allowed them to plant earlier or at the same time as non-cover-cropped fields. Among those who had "planted green," seeding cash crops into growing cover crops, 54% said the practice helped them plant earlier than on other fields.
Those findings were among several new insights from the 2019-2020 National Cover Crop Survey, conducted by the non-profit Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), with financial support from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). These organizations have worked together on several past national cover crop surveys, with the first survey dating back to the 2012 crop year.
The 2019-2020 survey, which included perspectives from 1,172 farmers representing every state, was the first by SARE, CTIC and ASTA to include detailed exploration of planting green—a tactic employed by 52% of the respondents—as well as crop insurance use among cover croppers and the impact of cover crops on the profitability of horticultural operations.
Many U.S. farmers have turned to cover crops as part of their strategy to improve soil health while reducing input costs and maintaining yields, stated Mike Smith, who managed the national survey for CTIC. Survey participants averaged 465 acres in cover crops in 2019, an increase of 38% in four years. The USDA Census of Agriculture found a 50% increase in cover crop acreage over the five-year period between 2012 and 2017.
“Farmers are using cover crops for a variety of reasons and many have tried new approaches to cover cropping,” Smith said. "This year's survey also indicated that some of the concerns that many growers have had about the effects of cover crops on planting dates in a wet year turned out not to be true—in fact, in many cases, cover crops helped farmers plant earlier in the very wet spring of 2019."
According to Rob Myers, Regional Director of Extension Programs for North Central SARE, “many farmers are finding that cover crops improve the resiliency of their soil, and the longer they use cover crops, the greater the yield increases and cost savings that are reported by producers.”
“We are pleased to see farmers appreciate the expertise of cover crop seed companies with 46% saying they buy from them and another 42% buying from retailers,” said Jane DeMarchi, VP Government & Regulatory Affairs, ASTA. “Professionally produced cover crop seed is grown for seed from the start and has been selected, harvested, cleaned and tested for performance. The study shows farmers are using a range of cover crop seed and mixes to address their individual needs with 46% paying $15 or under per acre.”
Among the 1,172 farmers who provided responses in the 2019-2020 National Cover Crop Survey, 81% were commodity producers (corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, etc.) and 19% categorized themselves as horticultural producers.
Here are some highlights from the survey. A full report is available free online at www.ctic.org/data/Cover_Crops_Research_and_Demonstration_Cover_Crop_Survey or www.sare.org/covercropsurvey.
The previous five national cover crop surveys sponsored by SARE, CTIC and ASTA have all reported yield boosts from cover crops, most notably in the drought year of 2012 when soybean yields were 11.6% improved following cover crops and corn yields were 9.6% better. In 2019, when wet early conditions prevailed across much of the corn and soybean regions, yield gains were more modest but still statistically significant. Following the use of cover crops, soybean yields improved 5% and corn yields increased 2% on average, while spring wheat yields improved 2.6%.
Saving on farming costs
Many farmers reported economic benefits from cover crop beyond just yield improvements. Of farmers growing corn, soybeans, spring wheat, or cotton, the following percent had savings on production costs with fertilizers and/or herbicides:
Soybeans – 41% saved on herbicide costs and 41% on fertilizer costs
Corn – 39% saved on herbicide costs and 49% on fertilizer costs
Spring wheat – 32% saved on herbicide costs and 43% on fertilizer costs
Cotton – 71% saved on herbicide costs and 53% on fertilizer costs
While cover crop seed purchase and planting do represent an extra cost for farmers, it was notable that most producers are finding ways to economize on cover crop seed costs. Whereas earlier surveys from 2012 and 2013 reported on a median cover crop seed cost of $25 per acre, most farmers reported paying less in 2019. Of the responding farmers, 16% were paying only $6-10 per acre for cover crop seed, 27% were paying $11-15 per acre, 20% were paying $16-20 per acre, and 14% were paying $21-25 per acre. Only about one-fourth were paying $26 or more per acre.
Planting green refers to planting a cash crop like corn, soybeans or cotton into a still-living cover crop, then terminating it soon after with herbicides, a roller-crimper, or other methods. In this year’s survey, 52% of farmers planted green into cover crops on at least some of their fields. (In the 2016-2017 report, the most recent prior survey by SARE, CTIC and ASTA, 39% of the respondents had planted green.)
Of the farmers planting green, 71% reported better weed control
68% reported better soil moisture management, particularly valuable in a wet spring
Horticulture producers also benefit
For the first time, the survey queried horticulture producers about how cover crops have impacted their profit. Of the 184 horticulture producers responding to that question, 35% reported a moderate increase in net profit (defined as an increase of 5% or more), and another 23% reported a minor increase in net profit (2-4% increase). Even after factoring in the purchase and planting cost of cover crops seed, only 4% observed a minor (2-4%) reduction in net profit, and none reported a moderate loss in net profit.
"The 2019-2020 National Cover Crop Survey shows that an ever-growing number of farmers of all types and in all regions of the U.S. continue to find advantages to using cover crops," says Myers at SARE. "While the first survey in 2012 showed the benefits of cover crops in a drought year, this year’s survey showed that cover crops helped farmers in wet weather as well, with many of them being able to plant in wet spring weather when conventional neighbors couldn’t. The survey showed farmers are figuring out how to make cover crops work for them economically, while using them as a tool to address challenging issues such as herbicide-resistant weeds."
For the full survey report and many additional insights on farmer experiences with cover crops, visit www.ctic.org/data/Cover_Crops_Research_and_Demonstration_Cover_Crop_Survey or www.sare.org/covercropsurvey
TREES AND TREE PLANTINGS AVAILABLE FROM YOUR LOCAL SWCD Since 1961, the SWCD has planned, planted, sold and established trees for windbreak rows in fields to mitigate soil erosion from wind. Today, the SWCD still sells, plans, advises, and provides for the sale and installation of products to ensure a successful planting. Much like shingles on your roof or siding on your house, a farmstead shelter belt or grove is necessary to keep energy costs low and control snow in your yard when you live in a rural setting. While field windbreaks still have their place in high erosion settings, groves and the renovation of them are the bread and butter of our Tree Program.
The Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District will start taking orders November 1st for 2021. This is the perfect time to take a walk through your grove to see if there are any rows that need to be replaced, maybe preparation for replacing rows in the future or if you just want to add a new row of trees to have some new fall color. This year is the perfect year to start your project. Call to talk with one of our technicians who can meet with you to discuss your needs. We can also meet at your site. By ordering early in the season you have more options available for your planting and allows ample time to complete a design for your project before the busy planting season arrives. We offer various bare root trees and shrubs, as well as potted evergreen trees. Along with supplying the trees, we offer installation services of planting, matting, and installing tree tubes.
Tree planting is done with a tree planter that is pulled behind a tractor (supplied by the landowner). The planter can plant bare root trees and shrubs up to an evergreen tree in a number 1 (#1) pot size. Plastic mulch comes in both continuous fabric and individual fabric squares. Continuous fabric is installed with a fabric machine that attaches to a Category 2 tractor three-point hitch. Plastic mulch around trees and shrubs can increase soil moisture near the roots and reduce competition of grasses and weeds. Tree tubes installed in conjunction with matting will give newly planted trees the best chance at getting rooted in the initial planting year and surviving through the winter. Tree tubes act like a greenhouse around each tree allowing the tree to gain additional height the first and second growing season. Tubes also protect the trees from depredation by deer and rabbits, reducing losses.
If your project is going to be used to protect livestock buildings, pastures, or a feedlot you may be eligible for cost share funding through EQIP. Call the NRCS office to see if you could be eligible for available cost share.
To find our new tree order form follow our Facebook page or visit our website at www.yellowmedicineswcd.org. You’ll find tree information under the Programs and Services tab. With any other tree questions, contact Brayden Anderson at the Yellow Medicine SWCD today!
OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE TO FARMERS THROUGH THE MN AG WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION PROGRAM
The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a voluntary program opportunity
recognizing farmers for managing their land in a way that protects water quality.
Yellow Medicine County producer, Joel Timm, farms in the Wood Lake area. He became an Ag Water Quality
Certified farmer in 2018 and has this to say about the program: “I became water quality certified because I
was already practicing most of the requirements on my farm and I only had to modify a few items to become a
water quality certified farm. Because my farm is certified I realize that I will notice things that happen on farmland
that could compromise our water quality in our waterways, lakes and ground water. One example I notice more
readily are wind and water erosion that move topsoil from our farmland. When I see this happening I also put
more thought into what I could do differently in my farming operation to help prevent this. Maybe the program
name should be changed to water quality awareness!”
Certification in the MAWQCP program provides:
Regulatory certainty: 10 years of compliance with new water quality laws and regulations
Access to financial and technical assistance.
Recently, certification has provided a new opportunity for farmers through its partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Certified farmers automatically receive “High Priority” status applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). And, available again in 2021 will be a separate Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) fund pool called Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) EQIP for certified producers.
A typical certification can take a few months up to a year to complete, depending on the eligibility initially determined by the whole farm assessment. An Area Certification Specialist will work with you throughout the process. Steps of becoming a water quality certified farm include:
Step 1. Apply: Fill out an application which includes self-verification of existing state laws and regulations regarding water quality, such as shore land setbacks, feedlot permits, disposal of waste pesticides, etc.
Step 2. Assessment: A field-by-field risk assessment that evaluates nutrient, tillage, and pest management, irrigation and tile drainage as well as conservation practices and compares them to the base physical field characteristics.
Step 3. Field Verification: Ensures any erosion concerns have been identified and addressed. This is done with a licensed certifier on the farm.
To learn more about becoming an Ag Water Quality Certified farmer, or begin the certification process, contact the Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Office at 320-669-4442x3 or the Area MAWQCP Certification Specialist, Danielle Evers at 507-825-1199.
MEET THE DISTRICT's CONSERVATION TECHNICIAN APPRENTICE My name is Kyle Richter and I am working as a Conservation Technician Apprentice for the Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) this summer. I grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin and decided to go to college at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) to continue my education and play football. I will be graduating next fall with a degree in exercise science and minor in biology. You are probably thinking what is an exercise science major doing interning with the conservation district? Earlier this year, I made the decision I wanted to pursue a career in conservation and that led me to this position. I plan on pursuing a master’s degree in fisheries or wildlife sciences after graduation. I am fortunate to be in this position to develop a baseline knowledge in conservation and different conservation practices that benefit the sustainability and maintenance of our natural resources.
In my free time, I enjoy hunting, fishing, watching sports, and spending time in the great outdoors. This internship has given me the ability to work alongside some great conservation technicians and learn firsthand about different conservation practices and how they function. Working as the Conservation Technician Apprentice is providing me with many different educational opportunities including learning about different conservation practices like the Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, and the Reinvest In Minnesota easement program. Also, working alongside different state and federal agencies is showing me how different conservation agencies work together to make sure landowner’s easements are being used to the best of its ability. My favorite part of the internship so far is inspecting different CREP and RIM easements. This has introduced me and helped me identify many different native grasses and forbs species. A perk of these inspections is seeing some pretty cool conservation easements throughout the county.
The staff at the Yellow Medicine SWCD are very knowledgeable and are quick to answer any questions I have. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer holds and to learn as much as I can in the next couple of months!
2019 Precipitation Summaries
Here in rural Minnesota, it’s a common point of conversation, “So, how much rain did YOU get?”
Thanks to the dedicated volunteer observers state-wide who not only check their rain gauges….they provide monthly summaries of their findings to the SWCDs, who in turn send them in to the State Climatology Office for recording and further study and comparisons. These observers use uniform, scientific equipment and methods to ensure accuracy in data collection.
Yellow Medicine County has a great group of volunteers monitoring and recording rainfalls for our area. They include: Wanda Luepke, Echo; Menno Fokken, Canby; Kevin Doom, Canby; Kris Brusven, Cottonwood; Dean Pearson, Canby; Jeff Remiger, Hanley Falls; Rodney Gaffney, Minneota; Richard Rogers, Porter; Ed Krosch, Wood Lake. And special thanks to Charlie Pearson, Canby, who dedicated so many years of providing rainfall information. We are so grateful to these volunteers for contributing their time and effort to monitoring our climate.
2019 Annual Reports of Monthly Precipitation Totals, Yellow Medicine County:
The data presented are monthly totals in Yellow Medicine County. Observer locations are described using township, range, and section numbers.
All values are in inches.
'cc ttt rr ss' is county-township-range-section number, 'oooooooo' is community name (where applicable), 'nnnn' is network type.
'AGR', 'HYD', and 'ANN' are 12 month precipitation totals starting in Sep 2018, Oct 2018, and Jan 2019, respectively. 'GRO' is growing season (May 2019 thru Sep 2019) precipitation total.
'*' denotes a partial monthly record, 'e' denotes that value is wholly or partially estimated.
Prepared by: State Climatology Office - DNR Waters, phone: 651-296-4214, web:
2019 Weather Summary for State of Minnesota:
Thanks to Pete Boulay from the State Climatology office for providing the following summary of the previous year’s weather:
2019 was the wettest year on record statewide with 35.49 inches, edging out 1977 with 33.93 inches. One of the wettest locations was Rochester, with an annual precipitation total of 55.16 inches. This is 22.14 inches above normal for 2019.
Cold and stormy conditions from the end of January through April contributed to high seasonal snowfall totals. The first four months of the year were about two degrees F below average. February had the coldest departure with 6 degrees F below normal. There was a memorable blizzard on February 22-24 especially in southern Minnesota.
Winter persisted into April, with more snow in the middle of the month. April started off very chilly, with some mild episodes in the second half of the month. May was quite cool (3.7 degrees F below normal) with spring crop planting falling well behind. Lake ice-out ran about a week behind the median.
June turned a bit warmer, with below normal precipitation. July and August had close to normal precipitation. Autumn turned wet again. Precipitation for September and October were both well above normal most of Minnesota. September was quite mild, with temperatures finishing from three to five degrees F above normal. The very last day of September was exceptionally muggy with highs in the mid-80s and dew point temperatures in the low 70s. October turned cool with average temperatures about three degrees F below normal.
Winter ended late for 2018-19 and started early for 2019-20 with a very cold start to November. Lakes began to freeze up with one of the earliest ice-in dates on record, but a mild spell in the middle of November thawed out many lakes. December seesawed between arctic and mild episodes and finished about three degrees above normal. Soils that froze up in early November then thawed and what frost remained was shallow in southern Minnesota, generally six inches or less under sod. Some places were free of frost in late December.
These maps depict the precipitation and the departure from normal for 2019. It was the wettest year on record for the state (1891-2019).
Go to climate.umn.edu to find climate related information and links. Measurable precipitation is an important piece of information when analyzing our weather and climate.
Everyone Can Make a Difference
The past three years technicians from the local Soil & Water Conservation Districts of Yellow Medicine and Lac qui Parle have been spreading the word about AIS. What is AIS? It stands for Aquatic Invasive Species. What are those? These are aquatic plants and animals that disrupt our lakes and rivers.
In a rural area with not frequently visited lakes it can be hard to spread the message on how to prevent the spread of AIS. Our technicians came up with the idea to attend local fishing tournaments to bring awareness to how damaging these AIS can be. While attending the fishing tournaments this year at Del Clark Lake, Wood Lake, and Lac Qui Parle they were able to get 256 people to make commitments. These commitments stated that each individual would do their part and prevent the spread of aquatic invaders. They agreed to check their boats and equipment to remove any visual invasive species. To prevent spreading AIS they would remove all water from their boat by draining the live well, motor, and pulling the boat plug. They will properly dispose of any unwanted bait or replace the water with tap water for wanted bait. Through all of these actions they wanted to set examples of how they are doing their part to protect our waters from AIS.
We would like to thank everyone below who made the commitments along with the Canby Fire/Sportsman, Southwest Prairie Outdoors Club, Ice Castle, and the Lac qui Parle Lake Association for letting us attend these events. Each person can make a difference. Will you?
PHOTOS: Above: Yellow Medicine & Lac qui Parle's AIS display. Right: Winner of the Bait Cooler at the Wood Lake tournament,
The Minnesota CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) sign up is on the way to its goal of reaching 60,000 acres. The program started in July of 2017 and will continue until they reach its 60,000-acre goal or exceeds their $500 million budget. It is the combination of the federally funded CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) and the state funded RIM (Reinvest in Minnesota) Program. The Program is only available in 54 counties, mainly the south and western part of the state.
The most recent CREP program release was in July of 2017, one of its original intentions were for landowners to be given the option to satisfy the buffer law and receive fair compensation through filter strips. Currently there has been 452 applications funded totaling over 24,000 acres in Minnesota. With only around 5% of those acres coming from filter strips. The other main option for CREP is wetland restorations, 90% of the current funded CREP applications being wetland restorations. This is largely in part to the excess amounts of rainfalls we have been receiving over the past few years. CREP can be an easy way to receive fair compensation on marginal cropland while still retaining the rights to who can access the land. The land is permanently protected and can never be farmed or built on again. It can how ever be sold at any time after the easement is recorded.
Since it is the combination of CRP and RIM the payments can be a little confusing. Landowners sign a 14-15 year CRP contract and get an annual payment each year until it expires. They also receive a RIM payment that usually is paid out 6-8 months after the CRP contract is started. These payments will total the current value of the MN CREP cropland rate of the township. Land that is eligible for the MN CREP cropland is current land being cropped annually or expiring CRP. Additional CRP that is not expiring during the application year can be added to the application with a maximum of 50% of the acres of cropland. There is also an option to add up to 20% of non-cropped acres as long as it is going to benefit the easement is some way.
Since this CREP effort started there has been 20 CREP applications in Yellow Medicine County totaling just over 1000 acres. There is a current application period running from April 13th to May 11th. There are 6 more applications in the works totaling over 400 acres. If you have any questions on payments, eligibility or anything else involving CREP you can contact Brayden Anderson at the SWCD. The office phone number is 320-669-4442x3 or you can email Brayden.firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO: A permanent floodplain conservation easement in Eastern
Yellow Medicine County along the Minnesota River. The lower area used
to be a crop field, destroyed almost every year by deep floodwaters.
Conservation District Evolves, Roles Change
Since 1950, the Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has provided the means for leadership of county residents on its Board of Supervisors and conservation professionals in its employ. The SWCD has prominently provided access to technical, educational and financial resources to conserve soil and water quality and quantity for the entirety of that lifespan. While many boots on the ground and district board members, or Supervisors, have staked their claim to soil and water conservation progress, 2020 brings about a new leadership in day to day operations.
Effective January 1, after six years in the office, Tyler Knutson has taken on the role of SWCD Director. In this role, he supervises staff, oversees operations and acts as a coordinating liaison to the SWCD board of supervisors. SWCD Supervisors are duly elected officials representing geographic areas of the county. Operations at the SWCD will remain largely the same. Tyler will still act as a point of contact for the few dozen folks still out of compliance with Minnesota’s buffer law through 2020 as they move into the enforcement process with Yellow Medicine County officials. Tyler will also continue to serve on the Minnesota Association of SWCDs Legislative Committee and various other organizations representing the SWCD. Kurt Johnson, who has served as District Manager for just under three years and has nearly 20 years of experience with the SWCD, will step into an advisory role for other technicians in the office. Over the next couple of years, he will work with newer staff on the past, present and developing the future of the SWCD’s Tree Program, begun in 1961, and local implementation of Minnesota’s Wetland Conservation Act, passed in 1991 and delegated to the SWCD by Yellow Medicine County.
Many new and old challenges lie ahead for the SWCD in 2020 and beyond. Securing funding and technical resources for SWCD and partner projects, implementation of the Yellow Medicine River Watershed Plan, a multi-million-dollar effort, the development of a similar plan for the Lac qui Parle River Watershed, enhancing and expanding the SWCD’s capacity to serve customers, and balancing a state and local funding system are a few high profile items.
SWCDs do not have the authority to levy taxes or regulate. However, SWCDs commonly receive a portion of county property taxes collected for operations. This accounts for about a third of Yellow Medicine’s revenue, another big chunk comes from the State of Minnesota. Grants and allotments through the State of Minnesota enact projects on the land, operations and outreach efforts. The final legs of SWCD funding mechanism is local and federal funding. The SWCD provides services locally in exchange for fees as well as seeing revenue from specialized work done with area Watershed Districts and the United States Department of Agriculture. Through additional funding and watershed efforts prioritized by Minnesota’s Clean Water Fund, the SWCD continues to build skills in the office and add equipment, such as surveying tools purchased in 2019. Much of this is done in order to put the action items listed in watershed based plans on the ground, benefitting residents and those people downstream.
The SWCD recently adopted policy and locked arms with other SWCDs, counties, the Lac qui Parle-Yellow Bank Watershed District and others to organize to a write an implementation plan for conservation and other aspects of the Lac qui Parle River Watershed. Over the next two years, the SWCD and partners will seek funding, engage citizens and build a plan to implement conservation and other activities in an efficient and effective manner. This process was prescribed by a local government roundtable and adopted in state law in 2012. The Yellow Medicine River Watershed and surrounding tributaries of the Minnesota River was one of the first of these plans to be adopted in the State. To date, over two million dollars of state and federal funds have been secured or utilized in Yellow Medicine County and surrounding areas. The priorities of this plan are to minimize flooding, minimize sediment and nutrients and protect groundwater supply. The Yellow Medicine plan was approved by the State of Minnesota in 2016, leaving partners to work on goals set forth in the plan to address priorities. Continued implementation and an assessment of progress and goals are the next phases of this project.
The stability in all that is going on with the SWCD comes from its existing technical and administrative staff. Since 2014, Anita Borg has served in Administration roles of varying levels. Currently she serves as Office Administrator and leads all aspects of accounting and financial operations of the SWCD, from audits to grants to payroll. Brooke Buysse joined the office in 2017 with experience growing up on a dairy farm, education from Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) in Environmental Science, and time worked at Jackson County as a Water Resources Technician. Her roles include leading the implementation of BMPs with state funding, Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention and is expanding her work with the Wetland Conservation Act. Brayden Anderson, Conservation Technician, joined the SWCD in 2018. With education from SMSU as well, he administers all conservation easement programs like Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in addition to Walk In Access, training in the SWCD’s tree program and coordinating seeder rental.
MN AG WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION PROGRAM launching new endorsements
Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District promotes and administers portions of one of Minnesota’s most successful and rapidly growing water quality management programs. The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is launching three new endorsements in addition to the 10-year certification a farmer or landowner receives in the program. The new endorsements were announced at the recent Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Convention.
The MAWQCP endorsements available to water quality certified producers are for soil health, integrated pest management, and wildlife.
“We recognize that many conservation practices targeting water quality also have benefits for other conservation goals, such as wildlife,” said Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. “These Ag Water Quality Certification endorsements celebrate the certified producers who are going above and beyond to implement conservation on their farms.”
The MAWQCP partnered with various non-profit organizations, such as Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition, and state agencies to develop the endorsements.
“Pheasants Forever commends the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for their collaboration and recognition of the many benefits that the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program provides in addition to water quality,” said Tanner Bruse, Ag and Conservation Programs Manager for Pheasants Forever. “The MAWQCP and wildlife endorsement recognizes our great Minnesota farmers and their passion for farming for the future and dedication to conservation. Habitat goes beyond wildlife with positive impacts towards water quality, soil health, and carbon sequestration.”
“The Minnesota Soil Health Coalition appreciates the dedication of the MAWQCP, helping producers identify and implement practices to improve their operations and resource concerns and value the Soil Health endorsement as another avenue to engage and improve soil health across Minnesota” said Brian Pfarr, Minnesota Soil Health Coalition Board Chairman.
Certified producers who achieve an endorsement will receive an additional sign for their farm and recognition for their conservation excellence.
Farmers and landowners interested in an endorsement or becoming water quality certified can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District or visit MyLandMyLegacy.com.
About the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program
The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. After a successful pilot phase in 2014-2015, the program is now available to farmers and landowners statewide. To date, the program has certified 816 farms totaling 557,000 acres.
SWCD NOW TAKING TREE ORDERS (December, 2019)
Since 1961, the SWCD has planned, planted, sold and established trees for windbreak rows in fields to mitigate soil erosion from wind. Today, the SWCD still sells, plans, advises, and provides for the sale and installation of products to ensure a successful planting. Much like shingles on your roof or siding on your house, a farmstead shelter belt or grove is necessary to keep energy costs low and control snow in your yard when you live in a rural setting. While field windbreaks still have their place in high erosion settings, groves and the renovation of them are the bread and butter of our Tree Program.
The Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District is now taking orders for spring of 2020 tree planting projects. This is the perfect time to take a walk through your grove to see if there are any rows that need to be replaced, maybe preparation for replacing rows in the future or if you just want to add a new row of trees to have some new fall color. This year is the perfect year to start your project. Stop into the office or call to talk with one of our technicians who can meet with you to discuss your needs, we can also meet at your site. By ordering early in the season you have more options available for your planting and allows ample time to complete a design for your project before the busy planting season arrives. We offer potted evergreen trees in various sizes, and bare root trees and shrubs. Along with supplying the trees we offer installation services of planting, matting, and installing tree tubes.
Tree planting is done with a tree planter that is pulled behind a tractor. The planter can plant bare root trees and shrubs up to an evergreen tree in a number 1 (#1) pot size. Plastic mulch comes in both continuous fabric and individual fabric squares. Continuous fabric is installed with a fabric machine that attaches to a Category 2 tractor three-point hitch. Plastic mulch around trees and shrubs can increase soil moisture near the roots and reduce competition of grasses and weeds. Tree tubes installed in conjunction with matting will give newly planted trees the best chance at getting rooted in the initial planting year and surviving through the winter. Tree tubes act like a greenhouse around each tree allowing the tree to gain additional height the first and second growing season. Tubes also protect the trees from depredation by deer and rabbits, reducing losses.
Ask us about Plantskydd to reduce deer and rabbit depredation on your trees and shrubs. Applied by sprayer or in a granular form this organic mixture is effective at repelling deer and other herbivores for most of the winter.
If your project is going to be used to protect livestock buildings, pastures, or a feedlot you may be eligible for cost share funding through EQIP. Stop into or call the NRCS office and see if you could be eligible for available cost share. To learn more about renovating your grove or establishing field windbreaks, Contact Kurt Johnson or Brayden Anderson at the Yellow Medicine SWCD today!
Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program(AWQCP) Brooke Buysse, Water Resources Technician
Looking for a way to make your farm stand out and get priority status for conservation program funding? Sign up for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program today! This is a voluntary program for farmers and agricultural landowners to show what conservation practices they are implementing to protect our water quality. Certified farms will receive a priority status when it comes for conservation program funding.
Once you have been certified there is a 10-year time frame where you would be exempt from any new water quality rules, laws, or regulations. There is also a set of funds specifically designated for financial assistance to implement and promote water quality projects.
As part of a Yellow Medicine Watershed Plan goal, we are seeking to collect five applications per year within the Yellow Medicine River Watershed and surrounding area. This plan, a product of the One Watershed One Plan initiative is a locally adopted plan that is composed by citizens, landowners, and local government officials to restore and protect our watersheds resources. As of November 1, 2019, we have 10 totally certified farms in Yellow Medicine County since the program began in 2016. Currently, we have 9 other farmers working on the assessment and certification portion of the program.
If you are interested in becoming a certified farm, please contact your local Soil & Water Conservation District. There is a simple application to fill out followed by the assessment process with our local certifier. The assessment consists of looking at information such as soil test reports, nutrient application, manure application, and pesticide application. The certifier will also conduct field visits to look at other landscape concerns for water quality.
Farms pursuing certification would also have priority for designated technical and financial assistance to implement conservation practices that promote water quality.
Drainage Water Management: save the water for when you need it.
The water logged soils of this year have many landowners and operators thinking about effective drainage. There are ways to extend the useful window of water subject to removal by agricultural drainage. Tile drainage has become popular in areas where soils have poor internal drainage because it helps to convert land that would otherwise be too wet to consistently farm into highly productive cropland. While the benefits of tile drainage are improved traffic-ability and increased crop yields, the practice also delivers nitrates and phosphorus to stream systems which have a detrimental impact on water quality. One strategy that can be used to reduce nitrates in tile drainage water is drainage water management. With drainage water management, water level control structures are included as a part of the tile drainage system, and these structures are used to manipulate water levels at different times during the year. The greatest nitrate removal benefits occur when water levels are maintained in the biologically active zone during the growing season where nitrates can be converted to nitrogen gas by denitrifying bacteria. A properly managed system can also increase crop yields by conserving water in the soil profile for crops to utilize. When is drainage water management a good fit for a new or an existing tile drainage system? Generally, drainage water management is unfeasible on land slopes greater than about one percent. It may be possible to retrofit existing tile installations with water level control structures depending on how the tile layout fits with the field topography. Tile systems utilizing drainage water management do not require closer tile spacing, but tile layout should be aligned with the field’s contours as much as possible in order to provide the most complete coverage and consistent water levels across the field. State and Federal funds are available for assistance in planning and installing these type of systems. Retrofits can also be added in some situations to implement subsurface irrigation in feasible locations.
Del Clark Lake near Canby, MN from the shoreline of
Stone Hill Regional Park on a warm August day.
John & Julie Essame named 2019 SWCD Conservationist of the Year
The Yellow Medicine Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) is honored to award an outstanding conservationist every year. The honorees for the year 2019 are John and Julie Essame of Belview. The farm has been in Julie’s family for 148 years and has been a leader in conservation of our precious resources all the while.
John and Julie Essame have dedicated a lot of time into conservation on their 200+acre property. They are always researching new ways to reestablish their land to its native state. They work with the Soil & Water Conservation Districts, Natural Resource Conservation Services, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, United States Department of Agriculture, and different counties to put conservation into practice. The Essame’s have been working with the local SWCDs where their properties exist for decades. Since they reside on the county edge, they not only work with the Yellow Medicine SWCD but also partner with the Chippewa SWCD as well. They have preserved 40 acres of rare exposed Granite bedrock outcrop by protecting it with a permanent easement. Each year they spend a lot of time trying to maintain Oak Savannah native vegetation by removing and controlling buckthorn and cedars.
Their property has been used for research in the MNDNR non game species research on the rare blue tailed Prairie Skink along with different rare snake species. John has also collected local Upland Milkweed seed and created his own plot to benefit Monarch butterflies. This fall, he is planning on adding an area of native flowers nearby to benefit pollinators. For years, they have raised sheep and rotationally grazed them on their pasture land. The waterways on their property have had wide conservation buffers for years. They have converted 30 acres of cropland and an additional 20 donated acres into a floodplain restoration along the Minnesota River protected by a permanent conservation easement.
We are honored to have John and Julie Essame as our conservationist of the year. They continue to implement conservation and preserve their land. As Yellow Medicine’s Soil & Water Conservation District awardee, the Essame’s was also nominated to the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’, MASWCD, Outstanding conservationist Award. This honor also extends them an invitation to the annual MASWCD convention. Thank you, John and Julie Essame, for your commitment to conservation.
Partnering to Protect Canby Creek
Tyler Knutson, Yellow Medicine SWCD
In 2018, the Yellow Medicine SWCD joined together with the Lac qui Parle-Yellow Bank (LQP-YB) Watershed District, based in Madison, MN to seek funds to protect Canby Creek and Del Clark Lake near Canby, MN. A successful $300,000 grant application by the watershed district will result in three major water quality structures near Del Clark Lake and multiple upstream projects to prevent erosion and improve water quality. Mitch Enderson, Coordinator of the LQP-YB Watershed District was able to successfully make the case to get the grant funded through the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, with information from a study supported by the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council. These Clean Water Fund allocations were made possible by Minnesota voters through the 2008 Land and Legacy Constitutional Amendment.
Well before the grant application was approved for funding, the SWCD’s technicians Brooke Buysse and Brayden Anderson were hard at work sending out letters and making phone calls to folks in these areas to promote practices and educate about the possibility of funding. These preliminary outreach efforts are vital to a successful and funded project. Upwards of a dozen interested parties in Yellow Medicine and Lincoln Counties indicated a willingness to partner on the project and do what they could on their land to protect the water quality of Canby Creek and Del Clark Lake. Stakeholders, such as residents and farmers in the area, were also involved in workshops to identify priorities that needed focus in this area as targeted conservation work occurred. These workshop were the source of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council’s support.
Del Clark Lake is a human made reservoir built with an earthen embankment, outlet device, and emergency spillway in the flow path of Canby Creek and what used to be pastureland. Its chief uses are to permanently retain an amount of water for aquatic recreation and to detain overflow water from upstream and meter it out slowly to prevent flooding damage in the City of Canby. The lake and surrounding land are owned the LQP-YB Watershed District. The lake also has a regional park, beach, campground, and boat landing all owned, operated and maintained by the LQP-YB Watershed District and its staff. The lake is part of a series of three similar structures in the area constructed to reduce flooding problems and have a positive recreational effect in the area.
The Yellow Medicine River flows by at Upper Sioux Agency State Park near its confluence with the Minnesota River
Making Progress in the Yellow Medicine Watershed
Tyler Knutson, Yellow Medicine SWCD
Through the work of partners from multiple levels of government staff and elected officials around the area and private landowners and stewards, the health of the Yellow Medicine River Watershed and surrounding area is on a course for restoration and protection of water quality. In late 2016, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources approved the Yellow Medicine River Comprehensive Local Water Management Plan. This pilot plan, developed by the public with advice and consent from State of Minnesota agencies, is designed to schedule improvement in the overall health of the Yellow Medicine River, Wood Lake Creek, Boiling Spring Creek, Stony Run Creek, and their tributaries. Since 2012, a process has been underway statewide to move to a watershed based water planning framework. Yellow Medicine’s plan is one of the first 5 to be approved and one of the most cooperative, efficient, and effective plans to date, according to some state officials.
The partners in Yellow Medicine, Lincoln, Lyon, and Lac qui Parle counties have worked together on plan action items. For example, the team has seen increased buffer law compliance. This being closer to the expected 100% compliance. Dozens of assessments have been completed for the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program. Certification demonstrates that a farm has implemented appropriate practices to protect water quality and other conservation issues appropriate for mitigation of pollution and other conservation issues on its acres. The Yellow Medicine SWCD and County have initiated a partnership with the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to map the geology and groundwater resources in the county. Numerous structural best management practices, conservation easements, open tile intake removal, cover crops plantings, and the use of no till are all scheduled, underway, or completely implemented across the 600,000 acre plus watershed. This implementation has been made possible with over a half million dollars in Legacy Amendment Clean Water Funds from a 3/8 cent sales tax ratified by Minnesota voters in 2008. An additional $124,000 and $373,000 of federal funding has been set aside and allocated to projects in the geographic priority sectors of the plan. This unprecedented investment by the state and federal governments leverages itself and sets up for even more dedicated funding to projects and efforts of different plan components. Many of these projects can be seen underway in the form of the use of cover crops, structural practices, enhanced engineering with conservation in mind on drainage systems, and abandoned wells being sealed.
Through the resources of a motivated and professional staff, partners in the private and public sector, and active land stewards, the SWCD has been able to successfully increase its own capacity to provide the best technical services to stakeholders in Yellow Medicine County and the surrounding areas in the same watersheds. As a list of dozens of projects and issues on the landscape continues to grow, the SWCD makes contact and provides investigation, analysis and presentation of alternatives to solve conservation planning goals on the landscape, mostly on private lands. These services all tie back to goals set forth in the plans directed by stakeholders. As these landscape problems find themselves solved in harmony with watershed goals little by little, the SWCD and partners get to celebrate accomplishments toward restored and protected water resources in the planning area and other work areas.
As laid out in the plan, partnership between the county and SWCD governments has led to the critical work of mapping the geology of the area and the groundwater resources. Public water suppliers, future generations of conservation planners, private decision makers and the public in general will take interest in and make use of a Geologic Atlas of each county. For example, in late 2018, the Yellow Medicine County Board requested the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to begin work with the SWCD to verify the records and existence of over 400 of borings into the earth to understand the geologic layers that each went through to complete the task. Staff at the University will use this confirmed data to identify areas in need of further study and map out the varying lenses that were drilled through. All of this work will culminate into a detailed map which tells the story of what we cannot see hundreds of feet below the earth in order to better understand how to utilize resources with minimal human impact during development, mitigation and protection.
In August, the work of this plan will get its first report card. At the Minneota Sportman’s Club the public and advisory committee that was convened at the plan’s inception will gather to discuss the work completed, in progress and to come by the implementation of the plan, the progress it has made, emerging issues, and the road ahead. There is much work to be done and an incredible amount of resources coming into the area for the restoration and protection of the Yellow Medicine Watershed. Your input and involvement is encouraged and appreciated as we continue on the road to cleaner water and a healthier landscape.
MEET SWCD SUMMER CONSERVATION TECHNICIAN APPRENTICE, ALI MILLER My name is Ali Miller and I am one of the two Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Conservation Technician Apprentices working with the office this summer. I was born and raised in Sacred Heart, Minnesota. I attended Renville County West Elementary School before transferring to Yellow Medicine East to complete my high school education. I graduated high school in May of 2017 and chose to continue my education at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. At UWRF, I am majoring in Agricultural Business with an Animal Science emphasis. I am active in Alpha Zeta and am the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences representative for Agricultural Business and Marketing Society. I will be starting my senior year this fall and plan to pursue a position in an agriculture related field after graduation.
I love spending time with family, friends and pets. I enjoy hunting and exploring nature. My favorite thing to do is travel because it allows me to learn so much about other cultures and their history. I just got back from a month long trip around Europe and will be going to Alaska later in July. One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to compare the different agricultural practices to what we do in Southwest Minnesota. In high school, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the FFA President for our chapter. I enjoyed being in FFA and was able to travel to Hawaii and California with our group and that is where I gained a love for travel and for learning about different agricultural practices. It amazes me how different agriculture is in various regions but yet how interconnected we all are.
I am very thankful that I was one of the students chosen for this internship. I will benefit from this experience because of my desire to learn about the conservation practices and how taking care of our resources will help protect them for years to come. This internship will also give me a better understanding of agriculture as a whole and how to improve agriculture to make our practices more environmentally friendly and sustainable. The staff at Yellow Medicine SWCD are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. I am very fortunate to have secured an internship where I can develop lifelong skills to help conserve our resources.
Ali identifies aquatic vegetation at Tyson Lake near Echo, MN while educating students.
LANDON ABRAHAM JOINS SWCD SUMMER STAFF
My name is Landon Abraham. I am one of the two Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Conservation Technician Apprentices working with the office this year. I grew up on a farm in Yellow Medicine County near St. Leo, Minnesota. I graduated high school in May 2018 from Minneota High School. I currently attend South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota and will be starting my sophomore year this fall. I am currently majoring in agronomy with a minor in ag business. After my undergrad, I hope to go on and get a master’s degree in plant science. Eventually, I hope to become a plant breeder. I do a couple of things in my spare time like helping in the field on our family’s farm operation, fish, watching or playing sports, and hanging out with friends. I enjoy being out and about and being outside. I am very excited about starting this internship to broaden my experiences and knowledge about our resources. I feel that it will help me with some of my core classes in college, and I am excited that I will be able to spend some of my time outside. So far, my favorite parts about my internship are the staff being so welcoming providing a great atmosphere and the staff being proactive in showing me what they are working on and encouraging me to ask questions. It has been interesting understanding all of the programs and what has to be done for different projects. This temporary position includes working with the trees sales and planting program, inspecting conservation projects, and practices with technical staff, observing all facets of the SWCD and working closely with SWCD partners to implement conservation and experience all that is possible in the conservation world. I am excited for this opportunity and grateful to be part of Yellow Medicine SWCD.
Landon works on an aquatic robot for an SWCD and 4H partnership project.
LEADING FARM, CONSERVATION AND WILDLIFE GROUPS UNITE IN SUPPORT OF PROTECTING CONSERVATION FUNDING
Appropriators urged to build on the farm bill’s commitment to conservation
WASHINGTON – Having succeeded in protecting funding for the Conservation Title in the 2018 Farm Bill, more than 140 leading farm, conservation and wildlife groups are once again joining together to protect those hard-fought conservation funds and programs in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations process.
In a letter delivered on Apr. 2, the groups, which include the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), National Farmers Union (NFU), National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and American Farmland Trust (AFT), called upon appropriators to respect the funding decisions made in the 2018 Farm Bill and reject any cuts to farm bill conservation funding through the appropriations process.
Farm bill conservation programs, including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), play a vital role in helping farmers, ranchers and landowners to keep their lands sustainable and profitable for generations to come.
“America’s farmers and ranchers worked hard to ensure that the 2018 Farm Bill included support for the conservation programs they rely upon,” said Alyssa Charney, NSAC Senior Policy Specialist. “The Agriculture Committees listened when farmers told them what they needed to thrive, and now we are asking congressional appropriators to do the same. The farm bill process is closed; appropriators should seek to build upon the foundation laid by the 2018 Farm Bill, not attempt to undercut it. Appropriators have protected these programs in their last two funding bills, and we now ask them to continue to do so in FY 2020.”
“As America’s farm and ranch families endure significant environmental and economic challenges, it is as important as ever that we maintain funding for voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs,” said Roger Johnson, President, NFU. “Congress just last year passed a farm bill with strong provisions and mandatory funding for conservation programs. Appropriators should reject changes that were settled in the process of crafting the farm bill and provide adequate funding to NRCS staff to fulfill their important role in ensuring the sustainability of family farms across the country.”
“Farm bill conservation programs are critical to addressing America’s wildlife crisis,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We call on lawmakers to reject any efforts to cut mandatory funding for farm bill conservation programs. These effective and widely supported programs give farmers and ranchers the tools they need to voluntarily restore important habitat for wildlife across America’s working lands and proactively recover at-risk wildlife populations.”
In their letter, the 146 organizations also urged appropriators to protect funding for conservation technical assistance (CTA).
“Ensuring full funding of CTA and farm bill programs will continue to allow conservation districts to work hand-in-hand with NRCS at the local level to deliver conservation on America’s landscapes,” NACD President Tim Palmer said. “Farm bill conservation programs are essential to our nation’s producers, as well as the consumers of their products. We urge Congress to protect and sustain conservation funding to allow our producers to continue providing a safe, reliable food supply while emphasizing locally-led conservation solutions to improve the quality of our nation’s soil, water and natural resources.”
The wide range of organizations signed on to the letter speaks to how significantly any cuts to conservation programs and technical assistance would be felt across the country.
“Farm bill conservation programs are critical to the efforts of farmers and ranchers across this country to voluntarily protect their land from development and implement environmentally sound farming practices,” said John Piotti, President and CEO of American Farmland Trust. “At a time when we are losing three acres of farmland per minute, it is absolutely necessary to save every last dollar for these programs and serve as many farmers and ranchers as possible.”
AFT, NACD, NFU, NSAC and NWF stand united with the more than 140 co-signed organizations in urging appropriators to protect funding for critical conservation programs and technical assistance in FY 2020.
Fishing Opener Reminder!
As you are preparing yourselves to head out to your favorite fishing spot, we would like to remind you to take precautions to keep our local lakes free of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS). Remember to take the time to remove all aquatic plants from your boat and trailer, drain the water from your boat, allow the five days dry time between lake visits, and avoid transporting lake water in your bait buckets. Just these few short minutes can make a huge difference in the preventing the spread of AIS.
There are new studies suggesting that zebra mussels and spiny waterflea can negatively affect walleye populations due to the changes being made in the food web. The AIS consume small aquatic plants that walleye fry feed on outcompeting our favorite sport fish. Spiny waterflea have also been found balled up in the stomachs of young perch. The young fish consume them and then are unable to digest the spiny barb. Multiple barbs in the fish’s stomach ball up and make little punctures in the stomach walls.
Photo credit: Jeff Gunderson
Photo credit: Department of Natural Resources
2018 Precipitation numbers finalized for Yellow Medicine County
Are you a weather buff? Looking for weather predictions and trends? The Minnesota State Climatology Office has a place for you to get information. Go to climate.umn.edu to find climate related information and links. Measurable precipitation is an important piece of information when analyzing our weather and climate.
Yellow Medicine County has a great group of MNGAGE volunteers monitoring and recording rainfalls for our area. They include: Wanda Luepke, Echo; Menno Fokken, Canby; Kevin Doom, Canby; Kris Brusven, Cottonwood; Charlie Pearson, Canby; Jeff Remiger, Hanley Falls; Rodney Gaffney, Minneota; Richard Rogers, Porter; Ed Krosch, Wood Lake. These observers use uniform, scientific equipment and methods to ensure accuracy in data collection. We are so grateful to these volunteers for contributing their time and effort to monitoring our climate. If you have an interest in monitoring precipitation, please contact our office. The data gathered assists in measuring past weather conditions, predicting future weather trends and so much more.
The report figure is a summary of the monthly precipitation in Yellow Medicine County in 2018.
The Yellow Medicine Soil & Water Conservation District, SWCD, has partnered with the Yellow Medicine County 4-H program to begin an Aquatic Robotics program. In the spring of 2018 we began the program in Clarkfield. The students met once every two weeks for three months. We began with discussing aquatic invasive species (AIS), followed by building our robot, and concluded last season with test driving the robot at the pool. This year we are starting earlier to allow us to take our robot(s) out to the local lakes and see what we can find. We are hoping to see what native species we have in our lakes and if there are AIS being able to identify them. Students will also have the option to make additions to the robot such as a movable arm, net, etc. This allows for each group to be unique.
If you know a student you think would be interested in our Aquatic Robotics program, feel free to contact Brooke Buysse at or 320-669-4442, ext. 3. At this point the only interest we have had has been in Clarkfield, but we are willing to work anywhere in Yellow Medicine County. We ask that there are three students per robot: one to operate, one to help with the cords, and one to watch the fish camera. Everyone alternates and gets to experience each aspect. If you are an adult and are interested in volunteering with the robotics program, please let Brooke know as well.
Local Working Group Held
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota requires each field office to host or take part in an annual Local Working Group (LWG) meeting. Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) also have the encouragement to take the local lead and chair these meetings. Meetings will be held across Minnesota this year to gather input and help set priorities for USDA conservation planning and resource concerns under the Farm Bill for the near term implementation of those programs.
The Yellow Medicine SWCD board of supervisors and staff held their Local Working Group meeting on February 28th with several conservation stakeholders present. Following the regular SWCD board meeting. Those interested gathered to identify priority natural resource concerns and to provide comments on the implementation of the conservation section of the federal farm bill. After about an hour of analysis, members determined that it was best to step away from the group and develop individual input and return it to be synthesized and reported to NRCS. The board will also entertain public comments to go along with the reported priorities if received by March 28’s board meeting. Contact the SWCD to submit those.
“Local Working Groups offer a seat at the table for interested individuals and groups to advise NRCS on how best to set priorities and focus locally on specific resource concerns,” said Danielle Waldschmidt, District Conservationist at the Clarkfield Field Office. “Members are diverse with an interest and focus on local agricultural and natural resource issues,” added Waldschmidt. Farmers representing a variety of crops and livestock raised within the local area, private landowners, representatives of agricultural and environmental organizations, and representatives of other agricultural and natural resource agencies are welcome and should be represented.
While the goal of the meeting was to set local conservation planning priorities, USDA conservation programs were discussed. USDA programs can help implement practices for the conservation of water quality, soil health, wildlife habitat, energy, and other natural resources.
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NACD Meeting and Legislative Priorities
In early February 2019, Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Technical Director Tyler Knutson was welcomed by the warmth of San Antonio, TX by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) membership and national partners of the organization that gather to organize and communicate on the work and priorities of over three thousand SWCDs in the nation and territories. For Knutson, this trip was about networking and professional development. The networking and listening to staff and elected officials from places like Taos, New Mexico, a popular skiing destination to Allegheny Conservation District, home to metropolitan Pittsburgh, PA, provided a unique and invaluable experience to bring back to serve the people of Yellow Medicine SWCD. Through strategic enrollment in sessions, a wide array of skills, ideas, perspectives, and questions were brought back home as well. Lessons in social media, social marketing (there’s a difference, believe it or not), consumer psychology, agronomy, water quality and quantity trends, and the list could go on of things that were examined in depth. Something shared was how things go in Minnesota, a jealousy is always quickly formed outside of our state with conservation professionals as we discuss Minnesota’s Clean Water Funds. This program is supported by the 3/8 cent sales tax Minnesotan’s imposed on themselves during the worst economic times in recent history. There isn’t a similar program that allows stakeholders to voluntarily access funding to do the work of clean water anywhere else in the nation. A highlight that struck close to home was a tour of the facilities that take in water from the San Antonio River, pipe it 150’ deep for three miles through a 24’ wide tunnel to lessen flooding impacts on the downtown area and regulate the water level of the world famous river walk channel through the city. This system is a testament to the ingenuity and investment needed to combat flooding of infrastructure for decades regardless of the cause.
As of March 4, 2019, Knutson has also been named to the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) Legislative Committee. This statewide organization promotes SWCD priorities developed from the grassroots level and amplifies them in St. Paul. Knutson is excited to work with other members, top notch staff and a contracted firm’s staff to shine a light and navigate the legislative process for SWCDs. The priority receiving the most attention this year is addressing a long standing lack of stable, simple, and repetitive funding to implement state law’s mandates. SWCDs have expectations from farmers, ranchers, homeowners, corporations in downtown Minneapolis, the owners of apartment buildings, state agencies, elected officials, fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico and all taxpayers in our areas and the state. Offices around the state have received supplemental temporary grants to expand capacity with no guarantee to continue outside of two years. SWCDs are the only level of government with a board elected by the voters every November election day, being a subdivision of state law, with statutory and contractual responsibilities, not to mention the moral and ethical requirements staff and supervisors on the board face every day, that do not have the authority and power to levy a tax for funding themselves. This year’s efforts, among other work, are to restore and maintain dedicated state funding to SWCDs to keep do their work and to change state law to give SWCDs an option and a public process to go through to levy property taxes or allocate project fees with stakeholders and taxpayers involved all along the way. Not all SWCDs need or will use this proposed authority because of adequate local and state funding combinations, but some can’t do the work they are required to do by law. As you, as a citizen, converse with Legislators on your issues, you shouldn’t have to beg them to fund SWCDs, but you can tell them of the effect your erosion remedy, cover crop incentive, educational programming, AgBMP financing, or other SWCD work has had on your livelihood.
Breaking for Lunch:
a discussion on soil health practices!
In late 2018, the Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) convened two groups of agricultural producers and professionals to discuss soil health practices. Whether soil health practices be defined by the individual as cover crops, no till or a switch away from moldboard plowing and disk ripping, stakeholders in this group were able to have a place free of sales pitches, gimmicks and negativity toward change to ask for perspective from those implementing cover crops and no till or those applying crop nutrients through strip till. Agronomists, crop farmers, and livestock producers were able to share perspectives of the toxicity of certain Ryes to following corn crops, managing a seeding of cover crops that didn’t come up in a cold fall drought and showed up the same time as planting season, and the surprise of the reduction of water needs for livestock grazing on certain cover crops. While the conservation community roots itself in the benefits to keeping bare soil covered, taking up nutrients from leeching to ground and tile water, there are other benefits. Regularly found, are also great agronomic and economic benefits realized to producers who have entered into cover crop systems that professionals and producers discussed in detail, unimpeded by government and industry shop talk. When it comes to no-till and strip-till type systems, wide ranging conversation was carried on about infrastructure, soil temperature, and crop residue management. While these are all challenges to systems making the transition to different soil management, there is a success story to balance out failure or challenging situation. The SWCD has seen this avenue for communication among those who are working on continuing a management evolution or starting one reduce uncertainty and risk for producers, including those who look to local, state, and federal resources for cover crops, nutrient and tillage management planning assistance and financial incentive. Be on the look-out for another event in eastern Yellow Medicine County on March 1 at lunchtime—location coming soon, and more throughout 2019.
MN CREP Continues
In September 2017, the Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (MN CREP) sign-up began taking applications for floodplain and wetland restorations, filter strips, and wellhead protection areas. Since then, more than twelve thousand acres have been enrolled in the 54 county area. In Yellow Medicine County, nearly 400 acres have been enrolled including nine easements of which are four filter strips totaling 59.09 acres, four non-floodplain wetlands totaling 319.57 acres, and one floodplain wetland of 17.9 acres.
Marginally unproductive cropland is the focus of this program to provide permanent protection for one of Minnesota’s most important resources, our water. MN CREP is a partnership between the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the state’s Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM). This is a voluntary program that allows landowners to enroll land into a permanent easement to protect Minnesota’s water resources as well as retain ownership and still control access to the land by the public.
Wetlands and floodplains are important areas that allow infiltration of water that recharge ground water aquifers and provide important habitat for Minnesota wildlife. Floodplains and wetlands also store water on the surface, and reduce peak discharge in flowing water systems like those of drainage ditches and streams. Reducing peak flows in these systems reduces bank erosion and sedimentation of stream beds, and is an incredibly high priority to improve water quality. Reduction of sedimentation can reduce the frequency of ditch cleaning that needs to be done to maintain drainage. If your cropland floods regularly or even occasionally, this is an excellent opportunity to receive fair compensation for setting your land aside.
These are benefits that MN CREP provide to you and our water. The RIM payment rates have been increased since last spring. They are currently ranging from $4,400- $8,000 per acre depending on township. This payment rate is comprised of an upfront payment and a temporary annual payment associated with CREP that you can learn more about by talking with staff at the SWCD. Enrollment also provides a reduction in taxable property value over the course of years of the easement. The key, the land remains your property. Enrollment in the easement simply changes the land use to exclude cropland and promote water quality friendly wildlife habitat.
Ag Water Quality Certification Sign Up Ongoing!
Becoming a certified farm shows the community that farmers are doing what they can to protect our water. This is a voluntary program for farmers and agricultural landowners to show what conservation practices they are implementing for protecting our water. The certification is valid for ten years. For that ten years, farmers/agricultural landowners obtain regulatory certainty of compliance with any new water quality rules or laws. Farmers seeking certification can get specially designated financial assistance to implement practices for promoting water quality from the USDA’s EQIP and CSP programs, or new programs that may arrive because of the new farm bill.
The process to becoming a certified farm is fairly easy. If you are interested contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). You will have to fill out an application and that starts the process towards certification. Once the application is completed you will be contacted by a local certifying agent to go through the assessment process. Some crop advisors also do this locally. The assessment process is when the certifying agent will ask you for information regarding your farm such as soil tests reports, nutrient application, manure application, and pesticide application. The certifying agent will also conduct field visits to look for soil erosion or other potential impacts to water quality. If issues were to be found, they and action on them would need to be included in the certification agreement.
In Yellow Medicine SWCD, we’ve had nine certifications and currently, there are twenty-two applications that are pursuing certification. There are incentive payments for completing an assessment and certification.
SWCD Supervisors Re-Elected
On November 6, 2018, among many local and state election results, two Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)
Supervisors were re-elected. In the 3rd district consisting of Friendship, Hazel Run, Normania, and Sandnes townships
as well as the cities of Hanley Falls, Hazel Run, and Clarkfield, MN residents voted Supervisor Hollis Weber to another
four-year term on the SWCD board. Weber has been on the board since 2012. The 4th District, including St. Leo and
Porter, MN along with the townships of Oshkosh, Omro, Tyro, Wergeland, Burton, and Swede Prairie opted to have Darwyn Bach represent them for another term through 2020. He has been a member of the board since 2014, and currently serves as Chairperson. SWCD Supervisors are the locally elected team of residents that govern the local unit of government much like a county, city, or school district. They hire staff, set policy, budgets, delegated authorities, and enter into legal agreements. The SWCD Board was established in 1950 in Yellow Medicine County. Over 3,000 conservation districts across the United States of America are locally controlled special governments that were born out of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and legislation thereafter. Most are still in existence today, and are generally tasked with coordinating and assisting with voluntary conservation implementation on private lands. For more information about Yellow Medicine SWCD supervisors, visit www.yellowmedicineswcd.org/board-of-supervisors or to find out who represents you in your SWCD visit www.maswcd.org . SWCD supervisors fall under the same election laws, reporting requirements, and public scrutiny as any other elected official in Minnesota. Representing the 1st District, elected first in 2016 with a term expiring in 2020, is Thomas Remmele. Delon Clarksean, also in his first term since 2016 until 2020, represents the western remainder of the SWCD, including Canby, MN. The most senior member of the board is Jerry Nelson represent the northeast section of the SWCD. He has represented District 2 since 2008, and will complete his third term in 2020. Both Bach and Weber will renew their oaths of office at a swearing in ceremony with the Honorable Judge Dwayne Knutsen on January 8th, 2019 at the Yellow Medicine County Government Center before the County Commissioner’s Meeting or at the following regular meeting of the SWCD Board to be announced in late January 2019.