Echo Press Editorial: New buffer law help for farmers
Promising signs are surfacing about an effort to keep lakes and water supplies clean.
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources has announced two additional resources for landowners working to come into compliance with the state's buffer law.
The law, which was passed with bipartisan support in 2015 and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton, requires the implementation of a buffer strip on public waters by November 1, 2017 and a buffer on public drainage ditches by November 1, 2018.
The additional resources, both financial and found online, are designed to help landowners be successful in complying with the law, according to John Jaschke, executive director of the board.
"Local Soil and Water Conservation Districts and landowners have been working together over the past 18 months and we are making great progress with 64 counties already 60 to 100 percent compliant," Jaschke said.
Statewide, preliminary compliance with the buffer law is 89 percent.
Douglas County farmers are also making good strides in complying with the new law. It ranks 21st out of 87 counties with the estimated percentage of preliminary compliance at 80 to 98 percent.
One of the new resources is a new cost-share program that allocates almost $5 million dollars to support landowners in meeting the requirements of the state buffer law.
The funds will be distributed to soil and water conservation districts and will be used for cost-sharing contracts with landowners or their authorized agents to implement riparian buffers or alternative practices on public waters and public drainage ditches. These Clean Water Funds, passed by the Legislature at the end of the 2017 legislative session, support the governor's buffer initiative.
The 2017 legislation also recognizes that some landowners may have hardships, such as weather, in meeting the public waters deadline. The added language allows for an eight-month extension for implementation when a landowner or authorized agent has filed a riparian protection "compliance plan" with their local conservation district by November 1, 2017. Compliance waivers offer a buffer deadline extension until July 1, 2018.
The other new resource is a one-stop website, www.mn.gov/buffer-law. It offers information about compliance waivers and other buffer topics, along with tips to implement the buffer law. It's a user-friendly and convenient resource for landowners and the public to learn about the law, find answers about alternative practices, and get information about financial and technical assistance and more. Farmers can quickly find answers by clicking on the questions they are interested in — "Does this apply to my land?" "What can I plant?" "Where can I get support?" Or "I need more time."
For more information on the buffer law, including the cost-share program, contact your local soil and water conservation district. In Douglas County, call 320-763-3191.
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Echo Press editorials represent the opinion of the Echo Press Editorial Board, which includes Jeff Beach, Editor; Jody Hanson, Publisher; and Al Edenloff, News/Opinion Editor.