SB 66: Grassy Buffer Strips Tax Break Returns!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. To qualify as “riparian buffer strip,” land must…
    1. 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;
    2. have “existing or planted perennial vegetation”;
    3. not be harvested or mowed before July 10;
    4. maintain vegetative cover at least six inched high at all times;
    5. not be grazed from May through September; and
    6. have a verified application filed by the landowner.
  3. 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.


4 Responses to SB 66: Grassy Buffer Strips Tax Break Returns!

  1. mike from iowa

    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

    I hope pols in South Dakota are aware of the amount of erosion that takes place alongside rivers and streams with annual flooding. Maintaining a 50 foot buffer will not be easy.

    Also along most any river there are areas of sand and/or mud between the waterline and the actual stream bank where willows and grasses grow. Would these areas be considered as part of the measurement?

  2. Peter Carrels

    The riparian buffer measure should be viewed as a step in the right direction. I hope it passes. There are concerns, to be sure. For example, how will the public and its decision-makers address nitrate and other ag chemical pollution delivered to surface waters via crop fields containing tile drainage systems? Tile drain systems will not be impacted by the riparian buffers proposed under this legislation. This is and will continue to be a huge unresolved issue in heavily farmed areas, and parts of South Dakota are intensively farmed, and tile drainage is increasingly popular. Also, the measure is “voluntary”, and it will be interesting to witness the actual development and application of riparian strips if the bill passes and because of this bill. Related to that concern is the fact that there is no mechanism in the bill to ascertain the public’s use of riparian buffers because of this legislation. That will challenge those interested in proving the value of the legislation when future legislators and policy-makers try to do so.

  3. Good points, Pete! I just got the Friends of the Big Sioux River newsletter, which previewed the grassy buffers bill. FBSR say the Governor’s plan is o.k. but urge addition of detailed monitoring so the state can measure the environmental impact of the buffer strips in their watersheds.

  4. Is there a law bill yet making the legislatures in power so that no nukes can get dumped down The Borehole? That will mollify many of the greenies here, if it does.