High Buffer Strip Fines Rejected
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources voted down an amendment this afternoon that could have set fines for violations of the buffer zone law drastically high.
The proposed rule was challenged by farm groups and rural lawmakers, and its demise leaves the buffer zone law without an enforcement mechanism still.
The heavy fines proposed died a quiet death this afternoon, unlike the big fight they caused at the Capitol when the initial law was passed in 2015. It's been amended each legislative session since, with lawmakers never being able to agree on how to punish those that don't comply.
"On April 4th the BWSR put out an amendment to their administrative penalty order for the buffer fines. Right now it stands at $500 per parcel. The new proposal would put that at $500 per linear foot out of compliance. For example, a farmer that would have 100 feet with smaller buffer would have a $500 fine, if this amendment were to go through, they'd be looking at a $50,000 fine," MN Soybean director of public affairs Joe Smentek said.
Still, the law is the law, so those rules will have to be made eventually.
But the open ended nature of what BWSR is being asked to do might be what's holding everything up. The political disagreements easily spill over into creating regulations.
"It's kind of a made up number. The $500 is a made up number. We've already passed one deadline for implementation, so we're seeing these new made things, let's try this. It shouldn't be about fines. It should be about be about getting farmers to do what they have to do on their fields to make sure the soil and nutrients stay in their fields and out of the water," Smentek said.
--, KEYC News 12.