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Governor Dayton Signs Agreement with USDA for $350 Million in Federal Funding to Protect and Improve Water Quality in Minnesota January 17, 2017

Landmark agreement will provide direct funding to Minnesota farmers, while working to protect and improve waters across 60,000 acres in 54 Minnesota counties 
 
ST. PAUL, MN – Governor Mark Dayton today signed an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), securing $350 million in federal funding to protect and improve waters in 60,000 acres across 54 Minnesota counties. The new state-federal effort, the Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), will target areas of southern and western Minnesota facing significant water quality challenges, to protect and improve our natural resources for future generations. 
 
“Minnesota is at a critical juncture in addressing our state’s serious water quality challenges,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “Through this landmark agreement, Minnesota will be better able to protect and improve our waters for our families, natural habitat, and our future. Clean water is everyone’s challenge, and everyone’s responsibility.” 
 
Through the Minnesota CREP, farmers and agricultural landowners can voluntarily enroll land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve easement program to create buffers, restore wetlands, and protect wellheads for drinking water. Farmers and other landowners who voluntarily participate in the program will be eligible for $350 million in federal funds for direct payments to farmers.  
 
“This landmark agreement will protect Minnesota’s most sensitive natural resources for future generations to enjoy and ensure our farm families are compensated for their conservation efforts,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “I thank Secretary Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for working with us to establish this partnership.”
 
The Minnesota CREP will invest a total of $500 million in Greater Minnesota. To leverage the full $350 million in federal funds, the state of Minnesota must commit $150 million, of which $54.8 million has already been appropriated in past legislative sessions. Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith have included $30 million for CREP in their 2017 Jobs Bill. Additional funds will be recommended through the Clean Water Fund, the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources, and the Lesssard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. 
 
The Minnesota CREP is a five-agency effort, led by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) and including the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The project will be completed in partnership with USDA – Farm Service Agency.
 
The agreement has the support of nearly 70 organizations and agencies in Minnesota including Pheasants Forever, Audobon Minnesota, Minnesota Rural Water Association, and the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts. To see a complete lists of organizations supporting Minnesota CREP click here.
 
Addressing Minnesota’s Clean Water Challenges
Despite the state’s abundance of lakes, rivers, groundwater and streams, more than 40 percent of Minnesota’s waters are currently listed as impaired or polluted. And damaging aquatic invasive species have infested more than 550 lakes statewide. 
 
The water treatment plants and clean drinking water systems that make Minnesotans’ water safe to drink, cook with, and bathe in, are also in serious disrepair. Some communities still rely on wooden pipes, installed more than 100 years ago, for their drinking water. In fact, Minnesota is $11 billion behind in just maintaining our aging water treatment and delivery systems over the next 20 years. And initial testing indicates that 60 percent of the wells in Central Minnesota may not provide safe drinking water. That’s why Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith have included $167 million in their 2017 Jobs Bill to repair and improve water treatment infrastructure across Greater Minnesota.
 
Governor Dayton has declared a “Year of Water Action” urging all Minnesotans to rethink water usage in daily life, make informed consumer choices, and talk to others about clean water protection and preservation. The Governor and Lt. Governor will host a Town Hall Water Summit at the University of Minnesota, Morris on January 27, 2017.
 

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