Rep. Paul Torkelson (16B) Releases Legislative Update

Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, addressed the buffer issue in his legislative update, released Thursday, March 19. His legislative update can be read in its entirety below.

One week after agreeing to carry Governor Dayton’s buffer legislation in hopes of making the bill acceptable to both environmental and ag interests, I was troubled to hear the governor’s accusations that farmers do not care about the environment.

Representative Paul Torkelson (R) (16B)

Representative Paul Torkelson (R) (16B)

While discussing his proposal that would require a 50-foot buffer of perennially rooted vegetation adjacent to ditches, the governor said: “So let’s face reality and say this is agriculture runoff that is causing this deterioration.”

Governor Dayton later told farmers: “You have a right to operate your land for lawful purposes, but you don’t have the right to dump your runoff and create cesspools where the rest of Minnesotans want to enjoy it and where wildlife wants to enjoy it.”

The governor’s comments are not constructive, and I’m very disappointed in his willingness to single them out for any of the state’s water quality problems. It makes little sense to alienate the one group that will be most impacted by any changes to the buffer requirements.

Current law requires a 16.5-foot buffer along public ditches that have had a redetermination of benefits. By increasing the size of buffers to 50 feet, the governor believes Minnesota will reduce pollution runoff and improve wildlife habitats.

Under the governor’s plan, 125,000 acres of farmland would be taken out of production without compensation for the landowner.

Farmers have a vested interest in preserving their land and nearby waterways because ultimately it makes them more successful. It is really about targeting and that means the right size buffer in the right place. Furthermore, a buffer solution that may work in northern Minnesota likely won’t work in southwestern Minnesota. Approving a one-size-fits-all approach is not realistic, and attacking farmers for expressing their buffer concerns is not helpful.

Currently the Minnesota Farmers Union, the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association all oppose Governor Dayton’s buffer proposal.

Talk to you soon,

Paul