Should farmers be required to keep a 50-foot buffer along streams and lakes?

“Southwest Minnesota farmers Thursday told Gov. Mark Dayton his plan to curb farmland runoff was simplistic and burdensome. They pressed him to broaden his approach,” writes MPR News reporter Mark Steil.

Dayton recently called for farmers to keep a 50-foot vegetative buffer along all streams and lakes in the state, a step he says is urgently needed. State law already requires a 50-foot buffer, but enforcement is spotty across the state. The governor’s plan would give state officials power to enforce the provision uniformly across Minnesota.

At a meeting in Worthington Thursday, farmers said they want to help solve the problem. But many told Dayton his plan goes too far and would take too many acres of cropland out of production.

“I foresee this as a land grab,” said Tim Waibel of New Ulm, Minn. “When you start taking 50 feet of my ditch slopes away, it hurts you in the back pocket.”

The governor’s comments put a spotlight on a problem decades in the making: polluted runoff that carries farm chemicals and sediment into streams, wetlands and lakes. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said recently that most of the lakes and streams in the southwest part of the state are not fit for swimming or fishing.

Today’s Question: Should farmers be required to keep a 50-foot buffer along streams and lakes?