Clear Water Farms

Clear Water Farms

Regulating agricultural pollution is both difficult and contentious. US EPA has left this burden to state governments, and the pursuit of special interests from farmer associations hinder any real progress.

Clear Water Farms
credit: River Alliance of Wisconsin

Mississippi River Collaborative specializes in the enforcement of the Clean Water Act, but since agricultural pollution is exempt from CWA regulations, MRC must seek out and pursue innovative solutions from a non-regulatory angle as well.

One such concept resulted in an environmental victory last week. Clear Water Farms, a pilot certification program developed with a partnership between River Alliance of Wisconsin and Alliance for Water Stewardship, is in the process of certifying Miltrim Farms for responsible water stewardship.

Miltrim Farms is an 1,800-head dairy farm with 400 acres of cropland. For two years, owners have worked to become the first farm in the nation to be certified under the Clear Water Farms program. It implemented solutions such as 1) converting marginal land back to wetlands and pollinator habitat, 2) reducing wash water by 15 gallons per head per day, 3) incorporating no-tillage practices, and 4) engaging community members.

Non-regulatory, voluntary farmer stewardship programs are not always the answer, but they are certainly ideal from a water quality perspective. MRC hopes that certifications such as this one – designed purposely as a volunteer program – can fill the gap left by the CWA exemption for agricultural pollution.

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