We’re working with partners to ensure that clean-water crops — perennial crops that hold the land in place, reducing runoff of river pollutants like nitrates and phosphorous — can offer a viable alternative to traditional agriculture for Minnesota farmers. Without a shift in agricultural practices, our state won't be able to meet our clean water goals. (Photo courtesy of the Walton Family Foundation)
Late summer may bring "amber waves of grain," but most Minnesota farm fields lie bare and brown for much of the year, leading to erosion and runoff of soil (sediment) and fertilizers. This is a leading source of pollution to our metro Mississippi as well as the Dead Zone downstream.
To restore the river's water quality and aquatic life, we need more green, living cover on our agricultural landscape year-round. Cover crops and deeper-rooted perennial crops (such as Kernza, which is related to wheat) have an important role to play in reducing erosion and pollutants like nitrates and phosphorous: They also benefit soil health and wildlife, and act like a sponge, preventing fertilizer from contaminating local aquifers or wells, ditches, streams, and, eventually, the Mississippi River.
Good for farmers, good for our environment
Minnesota's challenge is to make such next-generation "clean-water crops" profitable for farmers to grow. While new crops bring new markets and new jobs to rural communities, we need to provide the economic assistance, technical assistance and market access that farmers need to embrace these innovative crops. That's why we're focusing on Forever Green.
Session 2021: fully fund Forever Green
FMR's biggest legislative priority in the '21 state legislative session was to secure full funding ($10M) for Forever Green. While we weren't able to achieve this goal, we are grateful to our partners and River Guardians for helping to secure partial ($4M) in funding for:
- The Forever Green Initiative (FGI): The University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative (FGI) is a plant research and development program essential to the success of the clean-water crops approach. Through it, Minnesota can accelerate our development of economically viable winter annual and perennial crop options for farmers that reduce runoff pollution and habitat loss.
- Forever Green Partnership (FGP): Advancing our vision of a greener Minnesota requires collaborating with partners well beyond the environmental and research sectors. To this end, we're working with allies from across the state to build the new Forever Green Partnership (FGP) to effectively support key projects, build political momentum, and ultimately realize our vision of achieving continuous living cover on our region’s agricultural landscape. It's an ambitious effort, and we are incredibly excited about the transformative potential of the FGP.
By securing full funding for Forever Green, we can continue to invest in crop genetics, economic assistance, technical assistance and market access that Minnesotans farmers need to embrace the cropping systems that achieve our environmental goals while ensuring farm prosperity across Minnesota.
You can help!
Become a River Guardian
Sign up to become a River Guardian and we'll let you know when important river issues arise. We make it quick and easy to contact decision-makers and make your voice heard. River Guardians are also invited to special events, including happy hours, to learn more about important legislative and metro river corridor issues.
Keep up to date
We write regular updates about key environment and water quality issues on our Water and Legislative Updates blog, and share them on social media (Facebook and Twitter) and in our twice-monthly e-newsletter, Mississippi Messages.