March 1, 2018
Clean Water Council Budget and Outcomes Committee
We are very pleased to see that as a result of the most recent state budget forecast, the $22 million in Clean Water Funds that were inappropriately directed to local government programs last year have been restored to the Clean Water Fund. This presents an excellent opportunity for some strategic investments of these funds into some program areas that will provide long term, durable solutions to our water quality challenges in the state. We ask the Clean Water Council to recommend the following strategic investments.
We urge the Council to increase the funding recommendation for the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota by $4.25 million for FY 2019. We appreciate the Clean Water Council’s past support for this important work and this will effectively build on that past commitment.
As you are all aware the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report “Nitrogen in Minnesota Surface Waters” found that the development of more cover crops and perennial crops are critical to cleaning up our water. As we have seen in subsequent research, it is only by incorporating more perennial and cover crops into our current crop rotations that we will be able to reach our water quality goals in much of our state.
The Forever Green Initiative was established to address just this issue. Its focus is on research and outreach to develop and improve cover crops and perennial crops that are profitable for farmers to grow and necessary to improve water quality. These crops also help build healthy soil and provide improved wildlife habitat. The Forever Green Initiative has a competitive, peer review process for allocating resources that is open to all research and outreach faculty.
The University of Minnesota has the staff with the skills and interest in this work and is uniquely positioned to advance it. The Forever Green Initiative provides a mechanism to direct this talent. What has been missing is a commitment of ongoing funding to direct work that needs to take place over several growing seasons. For the Clean Water Council to include this funding in their recommendations would be an important step in achieving this. We feel that this funding is critical as Forever Green is a necessary key to unlock the dramatic potential for positive change in water quality this effort will yield over the long term.
We urge the Council to recommend $250,000 in FY 2019 for The Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program (WLWRP) which facilitates the creation of incentives,
products, and markets that will make it advantageous for landowners to plant perennial and cover crops to improve water quality and provide other ecological benefits. The initial 2016 program funded an active two-year Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) effort to research and develop the program. A project report was submitted to the legislature on February 1, 2018. This funding will continue this work for one year and position the project to be ready for implementation in advance of the 2019 session.
Lastly, we are excited about these requests because they are proposals where environmental organizations and farm organizations find common ground on nonregulatory, market based approaches to address some of our most difficult challenges. Farm organizations and conservation and environmental groups have joined forces to advocate for these programs at the legislature.
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Friends of the Mississippi River
Land Stewardship Project
Minnesota Trout Unlimited