Minnesota Farmers Use Water Wisely and Well

By Jake Wildman, Richard Syverson, Dan Glessing, Bob Worth and Warren Formo

As Minnesota farmers who irrigate crops, we’ve experienced a few tough growing seasons in a row – on the field with continually changing weather patterns and off the field with regulatory and legislative challenges. Both impact our ability to farm. Two recent Star Tribune articles mentioned these challenges – “Snow dents Minnesota drought” (Feb. 27) and “Farm water rules lenient, often abused,” (Feb. 19). But neither article told the whole story.

In 2020 abundant, heavy snow fell late in the spring and early in the fall. But 2021 brought the worst drought in decades. And 2022 brought both drought conditions and severe storms that wreaked havoc on houses, farm equipment, buildings and emerging crops. These conditions challenged all farmers across the state – operations that grow crops to support local farmers markets, livestock producers and production agriculture farmers.

A farmer’s ability to irrigate means the difference between a nominal crop and a crop that feeds millions.

We’ve learned to adapt to ever-changing weather conditions. Often, a farmer’s ability to irrigate means the difference between a nominal or normal crop and a crop that feeds millions. Every year, we carefully monitor the weather and adjust as needed. We use efficient irrigation systems and water management practices to preserve groundwater supplies and maintain farm profitability. We work with University of Minnesota researchers to continually improve the way we irrigate. And we only irrigate when needed; no farmer wants to deplete our state’s natural resources.

In fact, according to a recent Department of Natural Resources water usage report, data shows that irrigators across Minnesota use less water than is permitted 96% of the time.

Aquifer levels are not being depleted by Minnesota irrigators. The DNR has maintained monitoring wells in primary irrigation districts since the 1970s. The data they provide, which is publicly available, shows that Minnesota aquifers are healthy, recharging to their normal static level 30-60 days after irrigating has stopped for the season.

That’s why we were so surprised to see the introduction of two bills at the Capitol.
HF1680 expands the DNR’s authority to revoke appropriation permits through broad and vague language at any time. HF 1873 expands DNR’s enforcement authority to issue greater fines, which include civil penalties to water appropriation permit holders. Both bills were developed quietly and without any input from the agriculture industry.

In Minnesota, agricultural production and processing industries rank second in the gross state product, generating more than $112 billion annually in total economic impact and supporting more than 431,000 jobs. Irrigation on over 750,000 acres helps farmers grow many crops in which Minnesota ranks in the Top 10 producers nationally, including corn, sugar beets, peas, soybeans, potatoes, canola, wheat, alfalfa and horticulture.

When the 2021 drought was underway, some government support was offered to farmers. Cattle grazing was allowed on conservation lands when feed had all but dried up, and grant programs were created to manage financial constraints.

Farmers can adapt to the conditions Mother Nature provides. But we need support in another way from public officials: recognition of the impact that agriculture has on our state and an environment to successfully farm without undue interference. In the past few years, irrigators have been repeatedly subject to inefficient and costly permit processes, facing roadblocks when transferring appropriation permits through land sale sand encountering well interference investigations with incomplete data considerations.

Farmers can adapt to the conditions Mother Nature provides. But we need support in another way from public officials:

In the coming weeks, we will be visiting with legislators and agency officials to advocate not only for our right to irrigate, but for our ability to continue feeding Minnesota, America and the world.

Jake Wildman is president, Irrigators Association of Minnesota. Richard Syverson is president, Minnesota Corn Growers Association. Dan Glessing is president, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation. Bob Worth is president, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. Warren Formo is executive director, Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center.

DNR opens application period for reimbursement of well interference costs resulting from the 2021 drought

Feb. 3, 2023

The following is a press release from the MN DNR.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages well owners, high-capacity water appropriators and water suppliers to apply for reimbursement of costs associated with the resolution of well interferences that occurred during the 2021 drought.

As part of a relief package to address impacts of the 2021 drought, the Minnesota Legislature provided funding to the DNR to reimburse people who paid for costs associated with restoring a water supply as a result of a well interference. A well interference happens when a high-capacity water user causes the water level in an aquifer to fall to a level that adversely affects the availability of water to shallower wells. Dry conditions in 2021 caused some high-capacity water appropriators to pump groundwater more frequently in some areas of the state, resulting in numerous well interferences.

The DNR received $300,000 from the 2022 legislature to reimburse eligible expenses for domestic well owners, high-capacity water appropriators and public and private water suppliers. Those who wish to apply to the DNR for reimbursement will need to provide copies of receipts for work performed. The DNR will review the applications and determine eligibility for reimbursement.

The well interference situation must have happened between May 1, 2021 and Dec. 30, 2021 to be eligible for reimbursement.

Minnesota Statute 103G,265 requires the DNR to manage water resources to ensure an adequate supply to meet long-range seasonal requirements for domestic, agricultural, fish and wildlife, recreational, power, navigation, and quality control purposes. The Water Appropriation Permit Program exists to balance competing management objectives that include both development and protection of Minnesota’s water resources.

The application period is now open. Applications should be submitted by 4:30 p.m. May 1, 2023. If applications for reimbursement exceed the total funding available, the available funds will be allocated proportionately to all eligible applicants based on their receipts submitted.

For more information, including how to apply, visit the well interference resolution process page of the DNR website. 

New Cost-share Program to Help Upgrade Irrigation Systems

Irrigators in 19 Minnesota counties are eligible

St. Paul, MN: The first sign-up for cost-share for irrigation system upgrades and associated practices is now available to producers in 19 Minnesota counties. This cost-share is available through a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awarded by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

The program is available to producers with irrigation systems located within Becker, Benton, Cass, Dakota, Douglas, East Otter Tail, Grant, Hubbard, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Morrison, Pope, Sherburne, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Wadena, Washington, and West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD). Applications are accepted through June 17, 2022, and are available through the 20 local SWCD offices.

The program provides financial and technical support to irrigators looking to adopt and integrate proven precision irrigation technology and nitrogen management practices to help optimize irrigation system operation. This will help address groundwater quality and quantity issues under irrigated cropland.

The cost-share is available for practices such as installing soil moisture sensors for irrigation scheduling, upgrades of sprinkler packages, conversion to variable rate application, advanced irrigation water management, and fertigation retrofits. The cost-share amount varies; applicants should contact their SWCD for more information.

Acres receiving cost-share for irrigation practices are also eligible for cost-share for cover crops, residue and tillage management, and nutrient management.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, USDA NRCS, the 20 SWCDs, Central Lakes College, AgCentric, University of Minnesota, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, state agencies, irrigator associations, and businesses have partnered to offer this program as part of a $3.5 million grant from the NRCS.

In addition to providing the cost-share, a limited number of irrigators will receive a stipend to participate in the AgCentric Farm Business Management Program to provide an annual financial analysis of their operation. 

More information is available through the program website: https://agcentric.org/rcpp-precision-irrigation/. Contact your local SWCD for more information about the program and how to apply.


Alan Peterson Scholarship

The Alan Peterson Agricultural Scholarship serves to Respect natural resources, Embrace innovation, Advocate for agriculture at local, regional and national levels, Protect irrigated production agriculture and Promote research.

Alan Peterson lived and farmed in Sherburne County his entire life. He proudly served as a member of many agricultural boards at the local, county, and state levels and was president of the Irrigators Association of Minnesota for 18 years. One of his many passions was advocating for irrigation in the sandy soils of central Minnesota. He enjoyed communicating with farmers regarding irrigation questions and concerns. He was open to innovative practices that would increase crop productivity.

2021 Recipients

Congratulations to Anna Buckentine of Chaska, MN and Adam Lange of Deer Creek, MN the first two students to recieve annual Alan Peterson Agricultural Scholarship.

Anna is a 2017 graduate of Chanhassen High School in Chaska and is attending the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities studying Agricultural Education.  Her goal is to work in a high school setting teaching agricultural education. Until then, she will participate in a MAELC internship to hone her skills. Anna plans to bring her 4H experience and love for watching young people learn to the classroom. 

Adam is a 2019 graduate of Henning Public School in Deer Creek and is attending University of Minnesota at Crookston with a major in Agronomy and minor in Agricultural Business.  After graduation, he hopes to return home and continue growing his family crop farm. He looks forward to bringing the newly learned skills back to the farm, including new technology like drones to improve yields.

Drought Conditions and Water Conservation

The following is a newsletter from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources about the drought condition throughout Minnesota in 2021.

Drought is a naturally occurring aspect of Minnesota’s climate. In 2021 we have seen abnormally dry conditions to moderate drought conditions since early spring in many parts of the state. If dry conditions persist in specific areas of the state, the DNR might need to begin discussing water use restrictions with surface water appropriators in these counties. As the summer heats up, we realize that many of you also have electrical restrictions during peak load times.

 In the meantime, we are asking you to be extra vigilant with your water efficiency and to be observant of your neighbors’ drinking water supplies. Over 500 irrigators voluntarily completed the 2020 Water Conservation Report. These are the top water conservation measures being implemented by your fellow irrigators:


•       Leak detection and repair

•       Off-peak irrigating

•       Test sprinkler application rates and uniformity

•       Install Variable Frequency Drive pumps

Moisture Monitoring

•       Regular scouting crops for moisture

•       Rain gauges installed -3 or more per field

•       Soil testing for water holding capacity

Irrigation Scheduling

•       Checkbook Method

•       Crop-based irrigation scheduling method

•       Plant-based

Equipment Efficiency

•       47% report using center pivots – 41% use low pressure center pivots

•       47% can shut off water to unused areas, and 41% have end-gun management

•       42% have new or better nozzles and 34% have low volume/pressure nozzles

•       26% have a variable rate distribution system installed with speed control, zone control, or both

Plant and Soil Management to Save Water

•       Crop rotation – using some crops with lower water needs

•       Use drought tolerant/ lower water-use seed

•       Use a soil test to determine fertilizer needs

•       Regularly scout crops, follow Integrated Pest Management and Best Management Practices

•       Regularly work to improve soil health – cover crops, improve organic matter

The full Irrigation Water Conservation Report will be available later this summer on our Water Conservation webpage. The University of Minnesota has excellent crop irrigation information.

Also, please alert your local DNR hydrologists to any water supply concerns or issues during the summer.

Sign up to receive GovDelivery updates about drought in Minnesota, drought preparations and response, and important ways to conserve water.

August 2020

August 2020 Newsletter

Central Minnesota Irrigators are asking for your membership. The
annual meeting was held in January at the Prairie Event Center. In an effort
to continue the mission to educate and promote irrigated agriculture a
number of presentations were provided. Plans are developing for 2021 and
we hope you can take advantage of this gathering.

Central Minnesota has had a long standing organization-longer than state
IAM organization- with continued annual meetings and updated goals. The
mission hasn’t changed much over 50 years. We are committed to protecting
our right to irrigate, practicing sound water use management, protecting
water resources and ensuring water resource sustainability. Our
memberships bring together voices to protect our water rights.

Irrigation continues to allow producers to feed a growing world healthy and
sustainable foods on our farms. Our organization will continue to educate
members but its’ ability to do so and also remain ahead of the regulators
depends on your membership. Don’t assume that what we have today will
be here tomorrow. A membership lets you be a part of legislative efforts
like Day on the Hill, lobbyist, presentations on current issues coming down
the pipe and help support the purchasing of education equipment related
to irrigation at our local high schools through a scholarship Central
Minnesota Irrigators provides.

Thank you to our members for your continued support.
If you have not submitted payment for 2020 please considering mailing the
$30 membership to Robert Keppers, Central Minnesota Irrigators Treasurer,
220 Bottlemiller Dr, Wadena, MN 56482

To download the full August 2020 Newsletter click here

January 2019

January 2019 Newsletter

CMIC’s 50thAnnual Meeting
Thursday, January 24, 2019
Maslowski Wellness & Research Center
17 5th St SW
Wadena, MN 56482
Registration begins at 8:30 am

Accomplishments from 2018
Fund (2) educational projects focusing on water quality/precision agriculture
Develop a producer meeting that included the following topics:
-2018 Tax Reform
-Timeline for Permitting Process
-Farm Transition Tax Credit
-Organic Farming Options
-Legislative Irrigation Issues Update
-Act as a collective voice with IAM and other agencies

To view the full January 2019 Newsletter download it below:

August 2018

August 2018 Newsletter

You’re Invited to Attend Central Lakes College

August 24, 2018 9:00am – 2:30pm

Highlights on the following page. Here are some details for the day.
Tractor Ride and Drive – All ages are welcome to come and experience some of the latest technologies in equipment such as sprayers, the new RX, and tillage demonstrations with trained John Deere technicians courtesy of Midwest Machinery in Wadena, MN.

Drone Flight – Hands-on experience with drone technology experiencing flights and agricultural uses of drones for your farm with UAS Pilot Jonathan Beck.
History of 50 years of Ag Center – The Ag and Energy Center is celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year. Come learn about the history of how it all began in 1968 from Del Lecy. This will be repeated during the day.

Kid’s Program – Kids (suggested ages 5-14) are invited to join in the kid’s activities ranging from tractor driving, digging for potatoes of all shapes, sizes, and colors, and exploring drone technology relating to agriculture. Kids are welcome to take fresh veggies home with them!
Nitrate Reduction Water Quality Study-AgXplore-NZONE MAX – The goal of this four-year study is to reduce nitrate leaching through the use of AgXplore’s product NZONE MAX, which is mixed with all forms of urea when it is applied to the crop. Groundwater and soil pore water quality is being analyzed through monitoring wells and lysimeters set up at strategic areas in the field and along the parameter. Presenters will include Mark Peltier, Brandon McMillan, and Mitch Whyte from AgXplore and Dan
Whitney and Kristi Anderson from NWATS.
Ag and Ground Water Quality Tour – This presentation includes a tour of an off-site field. This study is designed to execute a land management plan that fosters soil health and provides adaptive management options that can be replicated to ultimately balance financial and environmental sustainability. Furthermore, intensive water quality monitoring is a significant portion of the study. Presenters include Ryan Perish with MDA and Dan Whitney with NWATS.
Kernza Plot Tour – This study was established last year to evaluate a new specialty crop kernza, and its potential impacts on coarse sandy soils. Studies include a variety study to study yield and plant characteristics, nitrogen application timing, and traditional cropping rotations compared to kernza while analyzing water quality through the use of lysimeters. Jake Junger will be presenting from the University
of Minnesota

Palmer Amaranth Workshop – Palmer Amaranth was recently discovered in Todd and Douglas counties. This workshop’s objectives is to increase farmer’s awareness of palmer amaranth and tactics that we can take to prevent the spread of this weed. Drone flights will be demonstrated during this workshop of how drones can be used to scout for this weed and other weeds that could be an issue. This workshop
is organized by the Todd County Weed Inspector Nancy Uhlenkamp
Trade show – Aside from publicized tours and workshops, several industry reps will be present at our trade show that will be in the machine shed from 11-2. These folks will be available to share their research as well as product comparisons and some results. The will include U of M, Agriculture Research Service (USDA), and many private label seed companies. Our variety trials companies will also be present to share results and go to plots as needed for observation.
Nitrate testing of well water – Attendees should plan to bring water samples for free nitrate testing.

To read the full Newsletter click the link above.

April 2017

Thank you to all who attended the CMIC Clinic and Annual meeting on January 26th in Parkers Prairie. We would like to extend a thank you to the following for their continued support.

  • Minnesota Valley Irrigation, Wadena, MN
  • Todd-Wadena Electric Coop, Wadena, MN
  • Green Valley Bean, Park Rapids, MN
  • Ag Country Farm Credit, Fergus Falls, MN
  • Green Plains Otter Tail LLC, Fergus Falls, MN
  • Auto Value, Staples, MN
  • Napa, Park Rapids & Wadena, MN
  • Elsner Well Drilling, Park Rapids, MN
  • Leaf River Ag, Wadena, MN
  • Professional Agronomy Services, Wadena, MN
  • Klimek Bros Well Drilling, Alexandria, MN
  • Kelly Bean Co., Mayville, ND
  • Amundson Peterson INC, Elbow Lake, MN
  • RDO Equipment, Fergus Falls, MN
  • Titan Machinery, Fergus Falls, MN
  • EOT Soil and Water, Perham, MN
  • First International Bank & Trust, Staples, MN
  • CHS Prairie Lakes, Starbuck, MN
  • Midwest Machinery Co, Wadena, MN
  • Northwest Aquwatek, Wadena, MN
  • Mid Central Mapping LLC, Miltona, MN
  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Staples office
  • Dicks Standard Gappa Oil, Parkers Prairie, MN
  • Quicks NAPA Auto Parts, Parkers Prairie, MN
  • Cropmetrics, North Bend, NE
  • Central Lakes College Ag & Energy Center, Staples, MN

For the full newsletter click the link below to open

If you have a topic that you would like to see discussed in a future newsletter please contact Keith Olander, CMIC Educational Advisor, Central Lakes College Associate Dean of Agriculture at 1830 Airport Rd, Staples, MN 56479 or phone 1-218-894-5163 or email kolander@clcmn.edu.
If you are no longer interested in being on the CMIC mailing list please contact Keith at the above address with a subject of CMIC. Thank you for your input.