Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, who is currently carrying Governor Dayton’s buffer bill, commented Thursday on his support of the bill. The bill, House File 1534, would require farmers to create a 50-foot buffer of perennially rooted vegetation adjacent to ditches, rivers and streams.
Torkelson said that he is supporting it in an attempt to emphasize the need for bipartisan legislation encouraging the voluntary use of buffers to improve water quality. But, he is carrying the legislation with the hopes of making significant improvements to it during the committee hearing process.
“In my opinion Governor Dayton’s bill, as currently written, goes too far and landowners are questioning the need for this one-size-fits-all legislation,” Torkelson said. “Buffers are an important conservation practice that can have a positive impact on water quality, but only when they are the right size and in the right place. My goal is to take this legislation and eventually work it into something acceptable.”
He said the intent behind the extremely controversial 50-foot buffer bill is to cut down on pollution runoff and improve wildlife habitats, but it will cause farmers to lose production farmland.
“There are also several other problems with the bill,” Torkelson said, “such as expanding the buffer requirements to private ditch systems; not clearly addressing whether the owner or operator of the land is the responsible party; and transferring jurisdiction from counties to the state.”
Torkelson said that if the bill is approved as it stands, there would be a lack of the needed resources for soil and water conservation districts to handle the increased workload. While the agricultural community supports the value of targeted buffers for water quality improvement, Torkelson said the property rights of landowners must also be protected and compensated for losses.
“Farmers care about water quality and in fact have worked with state and federal agencies to implement a variety of existing water quality programs,” he said. “But forcing a one-size-fits-all approach on them amounts to the state condemning personal property. That must change in order for any new buffer legislation to have needed legislative support.”
A companion bill is also in the Senate, Senate File 1537.
DNR Posts Overview of Buffer Initiative
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has recently dedicated a portion of their website to explain what they call Governor Mark Dayton’s “Buffer Initiative”.
Their website highlights buffers across the state of Minnesota, answers questions about the impacts of the current standing bills and cites recent research on water quality to support the initiative.
To learn more about the bill’s impact on farmers, click here to see what DNR Agricultural Progarm Liaison Jason Garms shared at an event Wednesday.