The deadline for farmers to comply with the Minnesota Buffer Law is Nov. 1, 2017. The law requires farmers to install a 50-foot vegetative buffer on all public waters, or file for a waiver that extends the deadline. By Nov. 1, 2018, farmers must have a 16.5-foot buffer on all public ditches.
Prior to the deadline, farmers are encouraged to visit their local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office to discuss options for compliance and implementation under Minnesota’s buffer law. Local officials will be available to help farmers identify where a buffer is needed, alternative practices to buffers and options for assistance on implementation. If farmers live in a county that elected to forego using its SWCD for enforcement of the rule, it is recommended they contact the Board of Water and Soil Resources’ (BWSR) central office at (651) 296-3767.
Farmers seeking a timeline extension to buffer implementation must either file for a “Parcel Specific Compliance Plan” or a “Technical or Financial Assistance” waiver with their local SWCD office by Nov. 1.
With the compliance plan waiver, farmers must describe specific buffers and alternatives practices proposed for each parcel of their land that will be implemented prior to the July 1, 2018 extension deadline. Farmers who apply for the technical or financial assistance waiver will have until Nov. 1, 2018 or when the financial or technical assistance is received to become compliant.
Alternative practices approved by BWSR can be used instead of the prescribed vegetative buffer. To help farmers find the best strategy to comply with the Minnesota Buffer Law, the Decision Support Tool, funded by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) and designed by the University of Minnesota, is available at every SWCD office at no cost to the farmer. Farmers may also access the tool online from home at bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers or mncorn.org.
Farmers using the tool must answer basic questions about the characteristics of their land, including soil type, slope and existing management practices. From there, the tool provides farmers with site-specific alternative practices, which would be used in addition to required minimum buffers of five feet on public ditches and 16.5 feet on public waters. Approved alternative practices like using cover crops, conservation tillage, contour strip-cropping and more would take the place of the buffer law’s minimum 16.5-foot buffer on public ditches and 50-foot buffer on public waters.
Farmers will be asked to file the alternative practices they are implementing with their local SWCD, and will be required to perpetually use those alternative practices in order to remain compliant with the buffer law. These alternative practices are specific to the buffer law and do not replace public ditch laws enacted in counties.