Red River Basin Commission
What has been most instrumental to your progress?
Collaborating with already existing groups within the agriculture community has proven to be key in reaching producers (farmers/rancher). Utilizing their current relationships and knowledge in working with producers we have been able to effectively understand and engage producers on a level we have not before.
In developing new relationships within the ag sector we have found that by working closely with organizations such as the Minnesota Farm Bureau and Minnesota Agricultural Resource Center has offered us a more effective approach to partnering.
While working through this process and finding a deeper understanding of producers role in the water quality arena, as a Red River Basin Commission board we have updated our bylaws and membership to include the agriculture sector effective January 2016. In meetings with the MN and ND State Ag Commissioners, they have committed to being part of our board and this effort.
Key lessons learned
Developing relationships with already established ag interest groups has proven key. It was very difficult to gain the trust and time of individual producers as they were not as familiar with us. It was really difficult to get the project going without those key relationships in place. Once those relationships were in place and we had the contacts we needed to get the producers engaged, it changed the entire process.
We were surprised to learn that producers were eager to learn more and participate in the process, knowing that they had an advocate in the RRBC and that the RRBC was interested in learning about impediments producers were having to improving water quality as well.
Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving
Collaborative: Without having collaborated with the ag organizations, we would not have effectively reached the number of producers in our large geographic community. State of MN took notice of our work within our unique community and determined that we are the best organization to lead a local effort to put together a nutrient reduction plan for the Red River Basin. The State of Minnesota allocated $200,000 to develop this plan of which the community input sessions funding under this grant is the first step in the process for the State of Minnesota
Other key elements of Community Innovation
Education: The RRBC has always been known for its effective ways in educating all levels of basin participation across jurisdictional boundaries. Despite lacking any authority the RRBC has maintained its relevance through the power of education and influence due to our board membership. We do not just educate others however we allow ourselves to be educated by our unique community and in turn have been able to develop unique projects and efforts to reach an audience that no one has before. That audience will convene again in January 2016 (33rd annual conference) with over 500 individuals coming together to share and educate about their efforts from three states and two countries. The process we are developing here is different than regulatory approaches that are being used in other basins across the United States.
Understanding the problem
Producers are aware of the need to keep nutrients on their land and out of the rivers, streams and water bodies. The challenge is helping stakeholders understand local needs as well as differences across regions. They feel that they are on their own to make these changes. By offering solutions and alternatives in our retention/detention strategies, we offer them a partnership in this effort in terms of deploying different practices within these projects that can help with the end goal, which is reducing nutrients on the Red River. This in turn breaks down the communication barriers, and allows everyone the opportunity to think about how they can make a difference.The State of Minnesota has also implemented a buffer strip initiative that will affect the same audience that we are working with to develop voluntary measures for water quality improvements.
If you could do it all over again...
Our advice would be that you do not have to reinvent the wheel to be unique and innovative. Innovation comes in many shapes and sizes. Our organization and our community are unique and innovative already. We learned that by utilizing current organizations that are in place, we can maximize all of our effectiveness together versus separately to be successful and reach our intended audience. We were able to reach a relatively new audience for the RRBC with minimal resources and we were able to reach the ag sector. This project has also helped our organization grow as well by added ag seats on our board of directors.
One last thought
The RRBC held a water quality tour in June 2015. The tour included a number of sites and stops in regards to water quality monitoring and efforts going on in the Red River Basin. The tour was attended by 50 individuals from the basin with interest in water quality.