Panel agrees to more buffer strips, expanded GFP farmer definition

By Bob Mercer
Farm Forum Correspondent

PIERRE — More agricultural properties could be eligible for buffer strip tax breaks, and more farmers could be eligible for seats on the important South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission, under changes a panel of the Legislature recommended Tuesday.

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 9-0 for each proposal and placed them on the Senate consent schedule for action this afternoon.

Neither measure had opposition Tuesday. They now move to the full Senate.

Rep. Herman Otten, R-Lennox, is prime sponsor for the buffer strip legislation. Lead Senate sponsor for House Bill 1119 is Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot.

It would allow a board of county commissioners, by resolution, to tell the director of equalization to reduce property taxes for any agricultural land within 120 feet of a tributary to any lake, river or stream already designated in the state buffer strip plan.

The goal is to reduce the amount of factory chemicals and natural nutrients that run off and pollute the water. The riparian buffer strip shall be assessed at 60 percent of its agricultural income value.

On qualifications for the GFP Commission, state law says four of the eight members must be farmers or ranchers who reside on their operations and receive at least two-thirds of their income from crops or livestock.

Rep. Kent Peterson, R-Salem, wants to expand the definition so farmers who live off farm could qualify too. He described House Bill 1148 as “a common sense update.” His goal is to increase the pool of eligible farmers.

Grace Beck, who manages the governor’s appointments to state boards and commissions, told senators it was “good policy.”

“It just makes good policy,” Frerichs said.

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