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McDonald urges governor to seek common sense on buffers

Thursday, May 11, 2017


ST. PAUL – State Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, is adding his voice to the growing bipartisan coalition of legislators, agriculture, and other stakeholders urging Gov. Mark Dayton to compromise on changes to the state buffer law set to go into effect later this year.

To date, Dayton has flatly refused to even discuss changes, despite a broad coalition of farmers, agriculture groups, legislators, and others who are urging changes to make it more fair and workable for landowners and local units of government.

“The way the governor forced this issue on people is causing headaches for both landowners and local officials alike as enforcement nears,” McDonald said. “I've heard strong concerns from many people in Wright County regarding the buffer law. The best thing we can do is to press pause and regroup so those concerns and confusion can be addressed. Rushing to enforcement is never a good idea and it is abundantly clear new buffer law is not ready to take effect. I encourage the governor to face that reality and start working with the people who are impacted by his buffer strips so we can find common-sense solutions.”

On Thursday, a long list of county commissioners and agriculture groups including the Minnesota Farmers Union, the Minnesota Farm Bureau, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, and many others sent a letter to Governor Dayton and legislative leaders urging them to find a workable compromise citing the challenges facing farmers to meet existing implementation dates.

If a compromise cannot be found on changes to the law, the groups requested at the very least that Dayton delay implementation to give landowners and local governments more time to comply with buffer mandates.

The Environment and Natural Resources Conference Committee report sent to the governor on Monday includes changes to the buffer law including:

  • Moving implementation dates to November 2019 for public waters, and 2020 for public drainage systems, to give farmers additional time to comply with requirements
  • Clarifying that all public ditches are subject to the long-standing 16.5 foot buffer requirement -- the original intent of the legislature.
  • Preventing buffer laws from being enforced on farmers unless federal or state cost-share dollars are available to cover 100% of the cost associated with installing the buffer to ensure it does not act as an unfunded mandate.




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