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Funds help farmers meet buffer law

Almost $5 million dollars is now available to support landowners in meeting the requirements of Minnesota's buffer law, according to the Todd County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The buffer cost-share program funds were approved at the June meeting of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. These Clean Water Funds, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Dayton at the end of the 2017 legislative session, provide important support to the Governor's Buffer Initiative.

The funds will be distributed to soil and water conservation districts and are to be used for cost-sharing contracts with landowners or their authorized agents to implement riparian buffers or alternative practices on public waters and public drainage ditches.

If cost-share is used to install buffers or alternative practices, stipulations will apply. A cost-share contract for buffers lasts 10 years, in which regular spot-checks will be performed. Haying is allowed on cost-shared buffers outside of the nesting season, but grazing is not allowed at any time during the contract. If cost-share is not used to install the buffer, haying and grazing are allowed at any time as long as the vegetation is maintained.

The 2017 legislation also recognizes that some landowners may have hardships (such as weather) in meeting the public waters deadline. The added language allows for an eight-month extension for implementation when a landowner or authorized agent has filed a riparian protection "compliance plan" with their local SWCD by November 1, 2017. Compliance waivers offer a buffer deadline extension until July 1, 2018.

The state buffer law requires a buffer on public waters by November 1, 2017 and a buffer on public drainage ditches by November 1, 2018.

Farmers in Todd County are making good strides in complying with the new law. Its preliminary compliance rate is at 80 to 98 percent, according to the state board.

For more information on the buffer law, including the cost-share program, contact Todd SWCD at 320-732-2644 or visit: www.bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers.

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