Speaking of tax incentives, Governor Dennis Daugaard has submitted his grassy-buffer-strips bill. Senate Bill 66 revisits the issue the Governor vetoed last year on constitutional grounds. Like last year’s Democratically sponsored but bipartisanly supported measure, SB 66 provides property tax breaks for farmers who restore waterside cropland to grass.
The main provisions:
- SB 66 creates a new property classification, riparian buffer strip, for agricultural land within 120 feet of a set of lakes, rivers, and streams defined by administrative rule.
- To qualify as “riparian buffer strip,” land must…
- be at least 50 feet wide and up to 120 feet wide, as measured from the top of the river bank or beginning of vegetation, whichever is closer to the water, for streams and rivers and from the beginning of vegetation for lakes;
- have “existing or planted perennial vegetation”;
- not be harvested or mowed before July 10;
- maintain vegetative cover at least six inched high at all times;
- not be grazed from May through September; and
- have a verified application filed by the landowner.
- SB 66 assesses riparian buffer strips at 60% of their ag income value.
That 40% cut in assessment isn’t as big as the break farmers would have gotten from the noncropland assessment Governor Daugaard vetoed last year. But the Democratic sponsor of last year’s grassy buffer strips bill, Jim Peterson, said last October he’d be fine with Governor’s proposal, as long as we take some steps to promote this simple and effective conservation measure.