Real Estate News: weighing in on water regulations

By: Justin Ohnstad
June 10, 2017

Minnesota isn’t just about the lakes (although we certainly love them – fishing is one of my favorite sports).  Of the total surface acres in Minnesota, roughly 50 percent is considered agricultural. It represents products valued at more than $21 billion in 2012. That’s a hunk of change.  It’s one of the reasons Realtors are heavily invested in advocacy and the protection of landowner rights in southeast Minnesota.  Because, let’s face it, a lot of that land is right here in our backyard.

So what do we need to keep our eyes on to protect this critical economic resource?  Regulation and de-regulation.  For instance, just a few weeks ago, the National Association of REALTORS® and the REALTOR® Land Institute came forward in support of repealing the controversial clean water rule (Waters of the U.S. or WOTUS), which would shift the regulations back to what it was before 2015 while national agencies figure out what constitutes “Waters of the U.S.”

The Land Institute writes that “all of this follows President Donald Trump’s executive order on February 28, 2017, which called upon the EPA to review the rule. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stated that the intent of the review is to “[Take] significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses.” NAR is working with the EPA on this review, hoping to “eliminate the need for costly and time-consuming permits on waters that previously were unregulated by the federal government.”

This (by chance?) coincides with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s push to clean up Minnesota waters by 2025. Two years ago, he met with heated resistance when he introduced his intent to establish buffer zones between agricultural lands and Minnesota bodies of water.  This year, he plans to visit Minnesota’s communities to get input from farmers and citizens before he unveils his ideas of how to accomplish his goal.

What does the balance between clean water and agricultural business look like? You’ve got 74,000 farms on almost 27,000,000 acres in Minnesota vs. 90,000 miles of waters in Minnesota that would require buffers or alternative clean water practices. That’s quite a complicated balancing act.

This is an important year to keep your eye on how government regulations are affecting Minnesota farmers.  I know the Realtors are. There’s a lot at stake.

Justin Ohnstad is president of Southeast Minnesota REALTORS© and is an ERA Gillespie agent based in Owatonna. Figures taken from the Farmland Information Center and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

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