Sen. Torrey Westrom’s statement on Gov. Dayton’s new buffer penalties that would devastate farmers
I am outraged by the new proposed rules from Governor Dayton through the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) that would increase penalties on farmers for buffer law implementation. These new penalties would devastate family farmers and could cost them tens of thousands of dollars, grossly exceeding the maximum fine of $500 as written in state statute.
While this new rule not only appears to be illegal on its face, it contradicts statements made by the head of BWSR, John Jaschke, just one year ago. During a Senate committee meeting that I co-chaired, Mr. Jaschke plainly stated regarding the buffer enforcement fines in Minnesota Statute, “It is only up to $500 and cannot exceed that…So, it cannot exceed $500 in any case.”
He also stated during the hearing that “local counties and watershed districts don’t have to use that administrative penalty order authority. They get to choose that if they want to.”
I agree with Mr. Jaschke’s original statement to the committee; this decision should be left to the local counties and watershed districts, not out-of-touch bureaucrats in St. Paul. My strong recommendation for the local units of government charged with buffer enforcement is to follow state statute and ignore BWSR’s onerous penalties. If counties and watershed districts have already adopted BWSR’s rules, I strongly encourage them to take back their local control and rescind these heavy-handed fines. Responding to public outcry, the legislature will be holding hearings on this issue in the very near future.