Steep Fines For Buffer Violations?
When I got home Friday evening from the farm I was checking emails and saw a news release from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is proposing an amendment to Minnesota's buffer law called an administrative penalty order (APO.) This could result in tens of thousands of dollars in fines for farmers due to noncompliance.
The buffer law that was passed, MN Statutes 103B Subd. 12a clearly states that a county or watershed district with jurisdiction or BWSR may issue a fine "up to $500 per parcel" for landowners in noncompliance. The amendment changes the APO to state " An annual penalty will be assed based on the linear feet of riparian frontage on a parcel. The penalty will be due on day one of the 11th month after the noncompliance notice was issued. The penalty may be repeated at the discretion of the county or watershed district."
"This proposed amendment is concerning," says Joe Smentek, director of public affairs for the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. "This new action by BWSR would exceed that legislative authority by 100 times what was authorized in statute." Does BWSR have the power or authority to increase fines for noncompliance by 100 times what was specified in the Minnesota buffer law? I get the impression that the buffer law does give BWSR the authority. However, I plan on calling Joe Smentek Monday morning.