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Minnesota's Buffer Legislation



Present buffer legislation in Minnesota requires a minimum of 16.5 feet perennial vegetative strips next to public drainage ditches, and a 50 feet average buffer, with a minimum 30 feet buffer, next to public waters. While this agreement is currently recognized as the approach to follow, provisions of the law passed during the 2015 special session could be interpreted as something else. Correcting the law to fit this approach is important in order to keep agencies from re-interpreting after the session is completed and also to protect from lawsuits by those who believe more areas should be put into buffers.


Changes that should be accomplished in the 2016 session include:

Basing public waters classification as agreed upon to the Public Waters Inventory list with designated shore land protection waterways for the 50 feet average, 30 feet minimum buffers.
  • Basing public ditches for the 16.5 feet buffer to only those waters established under 103E of Minnesota statutes in the Public Waters Inventory.
  • Removal of the extremely confusing language “within benefited areas” from the law passed in 2015.
  • Limiting the role of state agencies in implementation and placing the authority for implementation on local government units.

Proposed legislation, HF 3000 and SF 2503 address Farm Bureau’s concerns and establish important clarification matters as well as general improvements.  Farm Bureau strongly supports passage of these bills.

It is important that, in order to respond to the intention of improving water quality with buffers, the attention needs to be put on implementation. We support using the identified waterways, public waters and public ditches, which were identified and had their designations established through public processes. The prior announced system for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposing to identify buffer requirements within benefited areas concerned and confused landowners as to what might be invented to require loss of their property to the buffer mandate.

Farmers care about water quality but disagree that application of a mandated single conservation practice will achieve problem solving for all areas of the state. Beyond the changes necessary to correct the law, implementation of buffer requirements need to give full consideration for alternative conservation practices, provided for by the present law.