Mower SWCD assisting landowners with state buffer law

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 6, 2017

A steady flow of agricultural producers and landowners have stopped by or called Mower Soil & Water Conservation District the past two months due to the new state buffer law.

Mower SWCD district technician Aaron Gamm, who is coordinating the buffer program in Mower County, sent more than 300 letters in late January 2017 to Mower County agricultural landowners appearing to have land without an adequate amount of buffer along a public waterway. Addressing the needs on about 400 parcels, the letters included maps and a general overview of the buffer law.

“It’s been an overall positive response to the letters,” Gamm said. “And we’ve had a lot of landowners come in with compliance already there or in the process of getting CRP or other practices in place to address the buffer need.”

Email newsletter signup

CRP, which stands for the Conservation Reserve Program, is a program typically involving conservation easements of 10 to 15 years. Since the buffer issue emerged, Mower County landowners have enrolled more than 4,000 acres into CRP – a significant number and workload.

Under the law, the first compliance deadline will be Nov. 1, 2017, for buffers along public waterways (at least 30 feet of buffer and an overall average of 50 feet on a parcel). If landowners have not taken steps by this fall to address buffer needs, they will be out of compliance with the state. This could affect their eligibility for future conservation and federal farm programs.

Plenty of options are available to assist landowners with buffer needs, and Mower SWCD has adjusted its programs to make staff more available for assisting with compliance. The Mower County Board also committed resources in 2017 to Mower SWCD to ensure landowners seeking buffer help can get it from Mower SWCD before the Nov. 1 deadline.

Staff can provide technical assistance for measuring, staking, seeding and layout designing for buffers as well as offer programs that help landowners offset the loss of productive cropland.

More details will be coming out soon for the new round of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in Minnesota that is arguably the nation’s most robust and effective conservation program for long-term water treatment and establishment of wildlife habitat.

CREP is a voluntary program offering landowners higher payments to permanently protect cropland from ever being farmed again.