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Minnesota Buffer Law: 7 Things Farmers Need to Know

A new law in Minnesota requires farmers to plant perennial vegetative strips between cropland and waterways – including ditches – by November 1, 2018. The buffer strips will help filter runoff from fields to help minimize impact to streams, rivers and lakes.

How Much Buffer Zone is Required?

  • Public Waterways: Perennially rooted vegetative buffers of an average width of 50 feet with a 30-foot minimum width of continuous buffer along public waterways, such as lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, rivers, and streams. The width of a buffer on public waters must be measured from the top or crown of the bank. Where there is no defined bank, measurement must be from the edge of the normal water level.
  • Ditches: 16.5-foot-wide buffers are required along ditches. The law stipulates that the buffer vegetation cannot impede future ditch maintenance.

Who Has to Comply with the New Minnesota Buffer Strip Law?

Landowners with property adjacent to a water body identified in a buffer protection map and whose property is used for cultivation farming. You can find out if your land is affected by a body of water covered by the Minnesota Buffer Law by entering the property address on the Minnesota DNR’s Buffer Map page.

What Should You Plant to Meet Minnesota Requirements Buffer Strip Plantings?

The law requires buffer plantings to be perennial. Perennial plantings can include hay and forage crops; woody vegetation; perennial grains; and prairie vegetation.

  • Prairie Vegetation - Prairie plantings provide water filtration, wildlife habitat, and a source of biomass. Albert Lea Seed’s MN CP21 Buffer Mix has been developed to meet State of Minnesota requirements for filter strip plantings while meeting CRP and CREP seeding guidelines.
  • Hay and Forage Crops - Perennial plantings of alfalfa, clovers, and forage grasses can be used for buffer plantings. For example:
    • Our Waterway Mix is a permanent pasture mix developed specifically for waterways and ditches. Comprised of a mix of eight individual species, the Waterway Mix features fast-establishing annual ryegrass to act as an immediate cover crop for weed suppression.
    • Our Haymaker Mix includes alfalfa, timothy, and red clover varieties, well-suited for haylage or baleage production.

Where Can I Buy Approved Buffer Strip Seed?

Farmers should buy seed from a reputable Minnesota company with a current seed permit issued by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The certificate indicates that the company’s seed has been tested to be free of Palmer amaranth, Canada thistle, bindweed, leafy spurge and seven other prohibited weed species.

Albert Lea Seed is a certified provider of native seeds and other seed mixes suited to meet the requirements of the Minnesota Buffer Law. Call us at (800) 352-5247 to discuss your growing conditions and objectives or check out our suggested buffer strip mixes.

When Should You Plant Buffer Strips in Minnesota?

The ideal window for planting most buffer / filter strip plantings is May and June, but farmers can plant some varieties in August and September to meet the November 1, 2018 and gain establishment. Call us at (800) 352-5247 to discuss the right seed mix and timing for your land.

Are Buffer Strips Compliant with Other Federal and State Programs, like NCRS, CREP, and CRP?

  • NRCS: NRCS programs encourage the planting of native species to meet the Minnesota Buffer Law, but local conservation district staff may approve non-native, non-invasive forage species for honey bee habitat, haying, and grazing.
  • CREP: Plantings conducted through CREP can include native or non-native species depending on project goals.
  • CRP: Programs such Native Grass Restoration (CP2), Pollinator Habitat (CP42), and Restoration of Rare and Declining Habitat Program (CP25) each have their own planting requirements; however, Albert Lea Seed offers seed mixes appropriate for each CRP program that also adhere to the Minnesota Buffer Law.

Call us at (800) 352-5247 to discuss the right seed mix for your conservation program.

Are Buffer Strips Eligible for Local / County Cost-Sharing Programs or Other Tax Credits?

At the State level, a bipartisan bill is making its way through the Minnesota legislature that, if signed into law, would provide a $50 per acre property-tax credit to farmers who have planted buffer strips. The proposed tax credit would be funded from the Clean Water Fund. 

In the meantime, your local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) may have access to funding sources, which may have their own guidelines for planting options. For more information, contact your local SWCD or give us a call at (800) 352-5247.

Call Albert Lea Seed to discuss how we can help you meet the November 1, 2018 Minnesota Buffer Law with a variety of seed mix options.


You’re local and independent, and so are we.
Call us! (800) 352-5247 or visit our Minnesota Buffer Law Seed page.

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