National conservation initiatives are tremendously important, but states are getting in on the action as well. In fact, states are some of the best laboratories when it comes to trying out innovative new conservation policies and creating models that may be applied elsewhere in the future.
For example, in January 2015, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced a groundbreaking initiative to require 50-foot vegetated buffers around all waters of the state. The Governor’s buffer initiative is an ambitious proposed solution to the state’s water quality challenges, sparking debate around the country about the conservation value of buffers and the cost to private landowners. Making these policy ideas a reality takes constant work by conservationists statewide.
There are also opportunities to influence state-level implementation of national policies. The Farm Bill allows farmers to remain eligible for crop insurance subsidies if they mitigate drained wetlands with new ones. This includes the use of wetland mitigation banks, a market-based approach that allows farmers to purchase credits from an approved wetland bank. In many cases, states develop their own frameworks for how these banks can operate. The League has worked with other stakeholders to help shape a mitigation banking framework in South Dakota and is prepared to continue this effort as frameworks develop in other states.
From mitigation banks to statewide strategies aimed at reducing nutrient pollution, state policies are one of the best ways effect change on the agriculture landscape – and waterways near you.