This week the Ag Policy Committee held an emergency hearing dealing with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources’ recent proposal to severely punish farmers that were not in full compliance with the state ditch buffer law. The fines could be as much as $500 dollars per linear foot levied against the total feet of buffers on a farm. The fine could be levied on infractions that might involve only 10 linear feet of ditch buffer.
Numerous land owners testified expressing frustration and outright fear of a state agency that had embarked on this unauthorized and unnecessary rulemaking effort. Minnesota is making steady progress through voluntary compliance with the relatively new ditch buffer law. Some counties are already at 95 to 98 percent compliance.
BWSR Executive Director John Jaschke appeared before the committee and took full responsibility for a major mistake by the agency. He provided an assurance that further rule making activity on this Administrative Penalty Order had ceased.
I thanked the director for admitting that the agency had made a mistake. Unfortunately that level of transparency and immediate corrective action is far too rare in government today.
I also sent a message via Director Jaschke to the BWSR board. Despite having a meeting scheduled for later that day, I was very disappointed that not a single board member attended the hearing to understand the frustration and fear their action had created within the farm community. Had the board been providing effective oversight this entire situation could have been avoided.
On a positive note, Aitkin and Crow Wing County Future Farmers of American members visited this week. They were accompanied by their high school Ag teacher and chapter supporters. What an impressive group of your women and future community leaders.
A large group of Operating Engineers Local 49, Carpenters Union and Pipefitters also gathered to show support for replacing the 50 year old Enbridge Pipeline No. 3. I had the opportunity to briefly address the group on the Capital steps.
I assured them that while some may label what they do as temporary transient jobs, they are greatly appreciated as they in fact build and maintain our roads, bridges, pipelines, hospitals and other important infrastructure that our communities value.