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ATHENS, Wis. – Miltrim Farms, a dairy and crop farm near Athens has earned certification by the Alliance for Water Stewardship for documenting water consumption, implementing soil- and water-conservation practices, and working with partners to monitor water quality.

The farm’s nutrient-management plan was developed by an independent certified crop adviser. Potential for phosphorus to enter surface waters will be monitored by the farm’s managers, environmental-stewardship personnel and regulators. The goal is to reduce phosphorus-loading potential to levels supportive of the Wisconsin River total maximum daily load-allocation recommendations, according to Andy Johnson. He helped Miltrim Farms collect data required for certification. He served as a conservationist before retiring in 2017 from Wisconsin’s Marathon County Conservation, Planning and Zoning Department.

Farm managers will monitor potential soil-erosion rates of cropland to ensure sediment and topsoil remain in the field. They’ll also monitor soil health and the soil’s ability to increase water infiltration and reduce runoff.

Through a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, farms such as Miltrim Farms will monitor and report that farmsteads associated with the farms don’t discharge nutrients, wastewater or contaminated runoff to water resources, Johnson said.

“Minimal” agricultural performance standards are monitored by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for Administrative Code NR 151 through various DNR, local and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection conservation programs and regulations. The DNR monitors an area’s surface-water quality in support of the total maximum daily load to track improvements relative to phosphorus concentrations.

Miltrim Farms will follow those sampling efforts in areas adjacent to their cropland, Johnson said. The state’s agriculture department every few years conducts and reports results of a statewide survey of agricultural chemicals in groundwater. Miltrim Farms managers will follow those results in areas adjacent to their farmstead and cropland.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service also will have a monitoring presence on the farm through support of the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

“Finally Miltrim Farms has initiated conversations with a groundwater-monitoring company to determine the feasibility and benefits of developing a regional effort,” Johnson said. “That effort would involve community partners to improve the monitoring of groundwater flows, use impacts and quality of the regional aquifer.”

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Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin.