policy forum series: agricultural lands, legacy, and accountability: a clean water conversation

about the program

In 2008 Minnesota voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which infused hundreds of millions of dollars into programs to better understand, protect, and restore the state’s water resources. Thanks to increased monitoring efforts, we now know the majority of lakes, rivers, and streams in the largely agricultural southern part of the state are failing to meet water quality standards.

State agencies acknowledge current water funds, including Legacy Amendment investments, are not enough to ensure fishable and swimmable water statewide. In response, Governor Mark Dayton proposed changes to state law that would require at least 50 feet of perennial vegetation buffers around Minnesota’s waters.

The governor’s proposal sparked vigorous debate about the role of buffers as a tool for accelerating clean water outcomes in agricultural regions of the state. It also raised questions about how all levels of government and the private sector can cooperatively achieve—and be held accountable for—better water quality results.

During this forum, speakers and participants explored:

  • Outcomes of the 2015 legislative session related to agriculture and water quality,
  • How more robust information and new planning frameworks, as a result of Legacy funds, are changing our ability to identify and address the water quality impacts of agricultural production,
  • How stakeholders can work more effectively together to accelerate clean water outcomes on agricultural landscapes.



  • Duane Bakke, Commissioner, Fillmore County
  • Ian Cunningham, President, Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (Pipestone County Soil and Water Conservation District)
  • Warren Formo, Executive Director, Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center
  • Tom Hogan, Director, Environmental Health Division, Minnesota Department of Health
  • John Jaschke, Executive Director, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
  • Rebecca Kluckhohn, Principal, Wenck Associates
  • Peggy Knapp, Director of Programs, Freshwater Society
  • Melissa Lewis, Water Plan and Policy Coordinator, Board of Water and Soil Resources
  • Tara Ostendorf, Administrator, North Fork Crow River Watershed District
  • Glenn Skuta, Manager, Surface Water Monitoring Section, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Rob Sip, State Policy Analyst, Minnesota Department of Agriculture
  • Sarah Strommen, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources