On a bipartisan vote, the Senate passed legislation prohibiting the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) from enforcing certain regulations related to highway ditch mowing and baling. The bill, Senate File 218, prevents MnDOT from requiring, issuing, or enforcing permits to mow or bale in state highway rights-of-way until April 30, 2018.
“I join my neighbors in rural Minnesota in applauding the bill’s passage,” said Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne), a co-author of the bill. “Farmers and landowners in our rural communities have mowed and baled these ditches, without problem, for years. MnDOT’s sudden change in policy is costly, inconvenient, and comes without input from those whom it affects.”
This legislation comes in response to MnDOT’s change in policy regarding the requirements for mowing and baling state highway rights-of-way. The agency’s policy requires, among other things, landowners to apply for permits to mow or bale the rights-of-way, and prompted swift criticism from rural Minnesotans.
In addition, the bill requires MnDOT to work with agricultural and environmental groups in the coming months to develop recommendations on a permit or notification system for mowing and baling in the highway rights-of-way. These recommendations, which will be required to include landowner priority and ease of application, must be presented to the legislature early next year.
The bill was signed into law by Gov. Dayton on Friday, April 7.
“Establishing a moratorium will allow policymakers and the other stakeholders to work with MnDOT on finding a common-sense approach to move forward,” Sen. Weber continued. “We have the opportunity to do the right thing in getting folks together to work this out.”
Sen. Weber is in his second term representing Senate District 22, which includes communities in Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, and Rock counties. He also serves as chair of the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Policy Committee.