September 4, 2017
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources recently approved two additional resources for landowners pursuing alternative practices to buffers.
Each resource is designed to expand the options for water quality solutions in common situations where practices other than buffers may make sense.
The additional resources for landowners are:
• A decision support tool, developed by the Minnesota Corn Growers and the University of Minnesota, helps to determine if a combination of upland practices provide comparable benefits to the prescribed buffer.
• The Ag Buffer Builder, developed by Agren Inc. and Land O’Lakes Inc., provides for the design of a variable-width water quality buffer that reduces minimum widths by putting more buffer where water leaves the fields.
John Jaschke, BWSR executive director, says the buffer law’s flexibility allows additional options for landowners to meet the purpose of the law on landscapes where buffers aren’t the best fit.
MCGA President Harold Wolle adds that the additional resources and tools help farmers protect surface waters as intended with the buffer law, while limiting the loss of productive land.
“We are happy farmers have additional choices to contribute to our state’s water quality goals,” he adds.
The decision support tool is available to landowners at no cost and will be available on the BWSR website on Sept. 7. Landowners are encouraged to contact their local soil and water conservation district.
Matt Carstens, executive vice president for Land O’Lakes Sustain, says the Ag Buffer Builder tool will help farmers create variable-width buffers, preserving land in production and focusing buffers in the areas that need them most.
The Ag Buffer Builder will be accessible through the local agricultural cooperative. Inquiries on the Ag Buffer Builder can be directed to Land O’Lakes or one of its partners.
These additional resources are added to the current six alternative practices available for landowners and SWCDs:
1. Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program
2. USDA Practice Standard filter strip
3. Grassed waterway on public waters
4. Negative slope on public ditches, glacial lake plain areas public ditches
5. Negative slope on public waters
6. Buffer plus conservation tillage
Under the law, landowners can use alternative practices that provide comparable water quality benefits to buffers. SWCDs have the authority to validate these practices and are working to partner with and support landowners in finding the best solutions for their land. BWSR’s role is to provide program guidance, and support and ensure local governments are consistent and working with landowners.
Alternative practices are not limited to options found in the BWSR guidance. Other combinations of practices, based in the Natural Resources Conservation Service Field Office Technical Guide, can be developed in partnership with SWCDs.
SWCDs have been working with landowners statewide to make progress toward compliance. Sixty-four of Minnesota’s 87 counties are 60% to 100% in compliance with the buffer law. Statewide, preliminary compliance with the buffer law is 90%.
More information on the buffer program, including more detailed information on alternative practices and the variety of technical and financial assistance available to help landowners with implementation, is online at mn.gov/buffer-law.
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