We are a couple weeks out from the end of the legislative session. I have gotten several inquiries regarding the status of buffer policy now that we have passed our bills.
Farmers are justifiably frustrated with how the Dayton Administration has implemented its new buffer policy. House Republicans worked to clarify our state’s buffer laws in order to make them more fair for farmers, landowners, counties, and watershed districts. Existing buffer deadlines were proving to be unreasonable, and House Republicans have worked with farmers and farm organizations to give them additional time to comply with these new requirements.
While Governor Dayton's resistance to making changes to buffer law was discouraging, House Republicans fought for meaningful changes this legislative session, and successfully made the following technical and substantive changes to the buffer law:
Deadline Waiver: A temporary waiver for up to 8 months, available through local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) will be available for those not able to comply with the November 1, 2017 deadline for buffer installation on public waters.
Alternative Practices: SWCDs will now be able to approve alternative practices based on local conditions.
Cost Share: $5 million from the Clean Water Fund will be available through SWCDs for landowners interested in technical or financial assistance to establish buffers or alternative practices.
Seed Mixes: To prevent the spread of palmer amaranth or other noxious weeds, seed mixes must follow Minnesota's current seed verification process.
Definition of Public Waters: The definition of "public waters" was narrowed for purposes of the buffer law to be ONLY waters designated in the last Public Waters Inventory (PWI) update. Existing law pointed to a much broader definition of “public waters” and this change clarifies the intent of the 2015 agreement.
If you have additional questions regarding what we accomplished this session, please don’t hesitate to contact my legislative office.