To the editor:
I am a 61-year-old farmer by Tyler. I am writing on behalf of one of my kids and another family who has purchased land with RIM parcels on it.
In 1986 the state of Minnesota started the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program. It was started and is currently supported by conservation, environmental, farm groups, and Board of Water and Soil Resources, and is administered locally by Soil and Water Conservation Districts. A variety of land types are eligible: wetland restoration areas, riparian agricultural lands, marginal cropland, pastured hillsides and sensitive ground water areas. Some very productive farmland was also enrolled, including land capable of raising 200 bushel corn, 55 bushel beans, or six tons of hay in a good year. Farmers were paid up front to sign perpetual conservation easements on their property.
I believe clean water is a worthy goal. I believe in using filter strips, erosion control and pollution control measures. In severe weather, I feed the pheasants that live in our evergreens and choke cherry and plum thickets. However, I do not believe in the RIM program or Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
How can a landowner, who is only the steward of the land for his lifetime, sign an agreement that is perpetual and completely limits forever what every new steward after him can do with the land? After the CREP portion of the contract runs out, there is no compensation for the new owners. The first owner benefited. The new owner does not. New owners are responsible for the maintenance of the land, keeping invasive species out and paying property tax in perpetuity.
Eventually all land goes to new stewards. If the new steward is not an avid hunter, how much pride will he have in the conservation acres located on his property when there is no income potential from the property? Conservation acres need to be maintained and it costs to maintain those acres. You have to look no farther than Highway 14 by Tyler being under water for about a month this fall. Would you like to be the Soil and Water Conservation district person that tells the owner to maintain their conservation acres? This is a very problematic program.
The state of Minnesota should allow the perpetual easements to be bought out at the time of sale of the land or at the time of death of the landowner. The state could place some restrictions on it, such as maintaining 16' to 32' filter strips along creek banks which could be hayed after mid-July. This would help out nesting birds and keep sediment and pollutants out of the creek. Allowing perpetual easements to be bought out would help the state budget. It would also help the economy by letting productive acres be productive again.
If you would like to read the RIM law, it can be found on the Internet at revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=103F.515.
Yours for a better and more progressive Minnesota,