EPE TIG Week: How Agriculture Addresses Environmental Issues by Marcie Weinandt

Hello, I am Marcie Weinandt and have been working with Minnesota rural and agricultural communities my entire career, as an elected official, program manager and policy developer.  My state, “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” has had to face a hard truth: water quality in Minnesota is being threatened by agricultural field runoff.  My current work is as operations coordinator of the Minnesota Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP), designed to bridge the urban/rural divide and protect water quality by providing the regulatory certainty farmers need and the assurance the public demands.

MAWQCP has pioneered a new model of conservation delivery that works on a field-by-field, whole farm basis to identify and mitigate agricultural risks to water quality. Once a farmer has mitigated their farm’s risks to water quality the farmer is eligible to become certified and sign a 10 year contract with the State indicating the certified farmer will be in compliance with any new state water laws or rules. Through the contract farmers receive the regulatory certainty they need to make long-term decisions and the general public is assured that farmers are managing their operations to protect water.

Central to the program’s success is the collaboration among Minnesota’s state agencies. The Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency, the Board of Water and Soil Resources all support the program, uphold the contract provision of regulatory certainty, and are implementing additional benefits to MAWQCP-certified farmers within their respective agencies.

Recognizing early that this intergovernmental MAWQCP has several partners, funding streams and constituents, we realized it did not fit neatly into any single evaluation approach. Multiple evaluation methods were developed at inception to triangulate expected project outcomes. Formative Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) surveys were used during the pilot phase to inform program direction and to set a baseline. Later, summative KAP surveys yielded a second database against which behavioral changes could be measured in specific watersheds over time. In addition, advisory committee members were interviewed, and a post-certification farmer survey was done. MAWQCP gathers information on three other levels: environmental, participatory and political.

Lessons Learned:

  • Farmers have a very high concern for water quality and especially for reducing soil erosion.
  • They are also concerned about public perception of agriculture.
  • KAP Study revealed that technical assistance from a trusted source and that financial assistance was appreciated but not necessary to adopt and maintain an agricultural conservation or management practice.

Rad Resources:

MAWQCP:  Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) Study Final Report June 20, 2016

This KAP Study was conducted to better inform the implementation process of the MAWQCP.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Environmental Program Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the Environmental Program Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our EPE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “EPE TIG Week: How Agriculture Addresses Environmental Issues by Marcie Weinandt”

  1. An optimistic assessment of modern farmers current perspective on responsible farming. I hope she is correct.

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