Town hall buffer message to Backer not quite what he proposes in St. Paul

Jeff Backer likes to tell anyone who listens that the buffer laws he worked on and voted for in 2015 and 2016 aren’t popular in his district and aren’t ready to be implemented.

Minnesota Public Radio’s Elisabeth Dunbar reported in early February that he’d introduced legislation to slow things down:

Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, has introduced legislation to delay the buffer law and give mapping authority to local soil and water conservation districts. Backer said more legislation is coming.

Backer, Westrom hear about buffer strips, an article in this week’s Morris Sun TribuneĀ  that his constituents don’t see the need for any delay:

. . .To most of those who spoke in an audience of at least 50 people, there were no good reasons to not enforce and fully implement Dayton’s buffer strips.

“The problem with delaying the buffer law is there will be more and more run off,” said Sara Lam. “Forty percent of (Minnesota’s) waters are already impaired. What percentage does that need to reach (before the law is enforced).”

Troy Goodnough, a supervisor from the Stevens Soil and Water and Conservation District said he’s frustrated by the delay. He had recently attended a meeting with about 100 farmers and they didn’t seem confused about the law.

Dayton will require drainage ditches listed as public waters to have up to 50 foot buffer strips on each side of the ditch.

Jim Zych said he has a problem with the definition of public waters as it applies to drainage ditches.

Opponents have said Dayton’s law would classify private ditches as public water.

Tom Zych said the law would take land away from farmers but farmers still need to pay for that land.

And who will pay farmers to plant the buffer strip and for the loss of farmland? Westrom and Backer asked the crowd. The $22 million designated by Dayton for buffer strips won’t pay the entire cost, Westrom said.

The Soil and Water Conservation Districts are prepared to help farmers with viable options on the buffer strips, Goodnough said.

Lam said farmers receive federal subsidies so responsible use of the land near drainage ditches should be expected in return. Yet, “I’d be willing to pay more in taxes so my children and grandchildren will have clean water,” Lam said.

The Browns Valley Republican clearly is on a roll. On Friday, he told constituents opposed to local control preemption bills like HF600 that he knew of no such bill–just one day after signing on as co-author.

Then there was the time he let us know he’d attended the Governor’s Water Summit, although the email was sent a week before the event happened. And with photos around like the one in the bottom half of this post, it’s hard for residents of his district not to wonder if he’s maybe sorta asleep at the wheel once in a while.

Photo: Representative Jeff Backer.

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