Eighteen Minnesota farm and agricultural organizations and several local government officials representing rural counties signed onto a joint letter to Governor Dayton and legislative leaders urgently requesting they make needed modifications to the water buffer law and delay its implementation date to give local governments and farmers enough time to comply.
The letter was led by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and signees include the Minnesota Farmers Union; Minnesota Farm Bureau; various grain, livestock and poultry commodity organizations; cooperatives; and various county commissioners, who will be involved in implementing the law.
“We are not asking for a repeal of the water buffer law, but we must face the fact it is not ready for implementation this year,” said Harold Wolle, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and lead author of the letter. “Various officials have acknowledged that the implementation of the buffer law, passed by the Legislature in 2015, would be complicated, and this reality has been validated by the significant delays in developing buffer guidelines and the resulting confusion that now exists throughout the state among farmers and local government officials.”
Despite the fact the buffer law was passed in 2015, implementation guidelines have been slow in coming out and this is causing concern among local government officials as well as farmers. Farmers are now in their fields with spring planting, beginning the busy cycle of their farm operations through the fall harvest. This leaves little time to try and get into compliance by November 1st, especially when it has not been clear as to what constitutes “compliance.”
As an example, it has taken almost two years to identify approved alternative practices, which were only released last month. In addition, there is confusion over the classification of private vs. public ditches, insufficient funding for county boards and watershed districts to assist with local implementation and lack of suitable compensation for removing farmland out of production.
“The taking of productive farmland without some compensation and/or tax relief is especially troubling at a time when farmers are experiencing multiple years of low prices and financial stress,” said Wolle.
The letter goes on to state that if the Governor and Legislature cannot agree to needed changes of the buffer law prior to legislative adjournment, the implementation of the buffer law must be delayed to give enough time to work out the modifications and equip local government officials and farmers with the information and tools needed to effectively comply with the law.
Click here to view the letter.