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Land O'Lakes is going to help Minnesota's water quality efforts

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Land O'Lakes is teaming up with the state of Minnesota to help improve water quality.

The partnership between the private business and public agency, which Gov. Mark Dayton announced Wednesday morning, is the first of its kind in the nation, according to an email news release.

Land O'Lakes will work to get more farmers to take part in an effort to protect and improve the state's waterways, called the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. It's voluntary, and designed to advance conservation practices farmers can do to help protect lakes and rivers from farm run-off.

Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson says the partnership with Land O' Lakes will "be critical to expanding conservation and water quality protections to more farms across the state."

Gov. Dayton has made it a priority to improve Minnesota's water quality. This year, he proposed spending $220 million to ensure safe, clean and affordable water across the state. He also convened the first water summit, and is calling for a "Year of Safe Water" to inform Minnesotans about the challenges facing water quality, among other things.

26 million acres of farmland in MN

Minnesota has nearly 75,000 farms, totaling 26 million acres, the Minnesota Agriculture Profile shows. And since the program began in 2014, more than 150 farms have been certified, totaling more than 83,000 acres, the release says.

The program has helped keep 6.5 million pounds of sediment and 4,500 pounds of phosphorus out of Minnesota's waterways, according to the governor's release.

The Star Tribune reports the program started out slow though. Farmers weren't signing up at first, and environmental groups criticized it, saying there was no way to measure if the program made a difference in water quality.

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