State claims 94 percent buffer law compliance

Brown County is 84 percent compliant

Brown County is 84 percent compliant

ST. PAUL — State officials claimed on Thursday a 94 percent statewide buffer compliance rate on public waters with just under a month to go until the Nov. 1 implementation deadline.

Board of Water and Soil Resources Executive Director John Jaschke announced the percentage at a press conference that included Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson and Department of Natural Resources Assistant Commissioner Sarah Strommen.

The group said tremendous progress has been made regarding buffer implementation and provided reminders and resources available for landowners to meet buffer requirements with.

“Thanks to the efforts of Minnesota landowners, we are well on our way to meeting the Nov. 1 deadline to have buffers on Minnesota public waters,” Jaschke said. “We have many great examples of landowners and SWCDs (Soil Water & Conservation Districts) working together to find solutions that work for them and their land.”

The Brown County SWCD office reported an 84 percent buffer compliance rate on public waters Friday.

Sibley County SWCD Technician Ron Otto said he didn’t have exact figures on public water buffer compliance but estimated it to be “well above 75 percent.”

“We don’t keep exact track of compliance numbers,” Otto said. “We’ll keep on working to make landowners compliant. That’s our main goal. It’s been going good. We have a lot of compliance. But there are a few farmers objecting to it.”

With more than 40 percent of the state’s waters polluted or impaired, Governor Mark Dayton signed bipartisan legislation in 2015 to establish Minnesota’s water quality buffer initiative. The effort is designed to reduce phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment from entering Minnesota’s lakes and streams to improve water quality statewide.

After receiving more feedback from farmers and landowners across Minnesota, Dayton signed another bipartisan bill into law in 2016 to provide more flexibility for landowners.

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

Frederickson urged farmers and landowners to work with their SWCD if they are not able to meet the Nov. 1 deadline, to find a solution that works for them and their land.

Landowners have the option of complying with the law by using alternative practices that have equivalent water quality benefits to buffers. Landowners who request financial and technical assistance can request additional time to comply with their SWCD.

If a flat rate payment is used, the maximum buffer cost share is $300 an acre. If a percentage-based rate is used, the maximum rate is 75 percent. SWCDs may establish local policies for minimum flat rate payments as long as the rate doesn’t exceed $300/acre prorated to the area, or for a maximum amount a given landowner could receive.

If unable to meet the Nov. 1 deadline, landowners who commit to a compliance plan with their local SWCD by Nov. 1, will receive a waiver until July 1, 2018 to implement their buffer or alternative practice.

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