I have drafted a bill to repeal the buffer law and I am currently seeking a hearing in the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committee. I am also looking for an author to carry the bill in the Senate.
Recently, a four hour informational hearing was held on buffers. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) indicated that they will use current maps as the guideline to enforce the buffer law. These maps are incomplete, and in many cases, they are wrong. The DNR has also stated that the maps are subject to change; this is unacceptable.
The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BSWR) has released a draft of the rules they believe should be imposed. Counties have testified that BSWR employees have told them this is what they will have to use as a guide. This is untrue, and also unacceptable.
If the bill does not move forward, there are steps you can and need to take now. It is of the utmost importance that you talk to your county boards. They have until March 31st to accept responsibility for the management of buffers. If they do not accept, and repealing of the law fails, BWSR will have full control of the buffers in your county. Counties do not need to follow the draft set by BWSR. There are alternative methods that can be adopted. The county attorneys should read the law and help daft the county policy.
I have attached a document describing the condition of the waters in Minnesota. Please take a minute to read the information before the graphs. The headline tells us that the waters are improving, except for increases in nitrates and chloride. However, the article further explains that the information was gathered over long periods of time. The recent data indicates improvement with the nitrates and chloride levels, even though the graph does not reflect it.
It is important to remember that these buffers are on privately owned land. Land owners are already paying property taxes to the bottom of the ditch. As a result of the new buffer law, the state is now mandating that land owners give up an additional 16.5 to 50 feet, while not reducing the tax burden or compensating them for the loss. Our constitution does not permit the taking of private property without proper compensation and reason.
To a farmer, this is not just a patch of ground, it is how they survive. Last year, crop prices were so low that some farmers in the valley worried that they wouldn’t even make enough profit to pay their property taxes. Polices that were previously in place worked and farmers followed them. Farmers are good stewards of the land.
There are currently two other bills drafted that address the buffer law as well: one would delay implementation two years and the other would require rental payments.
Feel free to reach out to me with any questions, comments, or concerns.