Farm Progress

Most land along public waters already has buffers in place that were installed by farmers.

Paula Mohr, Editor, The Farmer

November 6, 2017

3 Min Read
MOSTLY COMPLIANT: Nearly 95% of the public water parcels in Minnesota are compliant with the state’s buffer law, which requires a minimum 50-foot buffer for water quality protection.

Nov. 1 came and went, marking the first deadline for Minnesota’s water quality buffer law.

Gov. Mark Dayton and agency commissioners held a press conference two days prior to note that the state is at least 95% compliant on the overall number of parcels adhering to the new state buffer law requirements pertaining to public ditches.

Dayton thanked Minnesota farmers for participating.

“I want to thank the many farmers, other landowners and local officials across Minnesota for their leading efforts to protect and improve the quality of our state’s water,” Dayton said. “Over the past three months, my administration has met with thousands of Minnesotans in 10 town hall meetings to find flexible solutions that will protect and improve the quality of our water for ourselves and future generations. Clean water is our shared responsibility.”

First deadline was Nov. 1, 2017
Dayton signed the buffer legislation in 2015. Farmers were required by Nov. 1 to establish a buffer with a 50-foot average width, or an alternative practice, on land adjacent to public waters identified and mapped on the state’s buffer map. By Nov. 1, 2018, farmers and other landowners are required to establish 16.5-foot-minimum-width buffers, or an alternative practice, on land adjacent to public ditches as identified and mapped on the buffer map.

Dave Frederickson, agriculture commissioner, noted that Minnesota farmers were committed to meeting the Nov. 1 deadline.

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COUNTY BY COUNTY: Compiled by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and based on reports collected from local soil and water conservation districts and local governments, the map shows compliance rates on public water parcels across the state.

“Many farmers and landowners already had buffers in place when the requirement became law,” he said. “And others have now responded to the governor’s call asking them to be part of the solution to clean up our valuable water resources.”

MDA and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources worked with farmers and local experts to develop alternative practices that have equivalent water quality benefits to buffers. These alternative practices helped farmers make choices to protect water quality in ways that work best for them.

Flexible law
John Jaschke, BWSR executive director, said the buffer law is designed to be flexible while delivering improved water quality benefits.

“There are many great examples of landowners and soil and water conservation districts working together to find a solution that works for them and their land,” he said.

As pointed out by Tim Ruzek, Mower SWCD water plan and outreach coordinator, some SWCDs, such as Mower, use a metric to determine their local buffer compliance rate based on overall acres along public waterways and public ditches — not parcels as counted by the governor’s office. For example, when using the metric based on overall acres, Mower is 96.5% compliant, compared to 86% compliant when counting overall number of parcels.

“We want to clarify the difference in these numbers as parcels vary in their number of acres, from very small to quite large,” he said.

More information on the buffer program, including more detailed information on alternative practices, and a variety of technical and financial assistance available to help landowners with implementation, is available at mn.gov/buffer-law.

About the Author(s)

Paula Mohr

Editor, The Farmer

Mohr is former editor of The Farmer.

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