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For wildlife and clean water, Legislature OKs a tax break for agricultural buffer strips

PIERRE -- One year after the governor used his veto to block a similar concept, the Legislature gave final approval Monday to the governor's broader plan for property tax incentives on agricultural land along lakes, rivers and streams that suppor...

The sun sets on a flock of geese in a small lake along 257th street North of Bridgewater in this 2013 photograph. (Daily Republic file photo)
The sun sets on a flock of geese in a small lake along 257th street North of Bridgewater in this 2013 photograph. (Daily Republic file photo)

PIERRE - One year after the governor used his veto to block a similar concept, the Legislature gave final approval Monday to the governor's broader plan for property tax incentives on agricultural land along lakes, rivers and streams that support fish life.

The goal is to reduce agricultural runoff reaching waterways.

The state House of Representatives voted 62-5 for the riparian buffer-strip measure. Minutes later Gov. Dennis Daugaard issued a thank-you on the Internet via Twitter, calling it "a bipartisan step forward."

The Senate had approved the governor's legislation 34-0 on Feb. 8.

Last year the governor vetoed somewhat similar legislation from then-Sen. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo. The Senate overrode the veto last March but the House fell short.

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The Peterson measure covered buffer strips 50 feet wide. The Daugaard measure extends to 150 feet.

Peterson's plan called for taxing the land at lower non-cropland value. Daugaard's version provides a 40 percent discount of cropland and non-cropland.

Rep. Mary Duvall, R-Pierre, said the governor's version is built on "a good idea from last year and refines it to be a better idea this year."

The total impact would be $1.2 million of tax revenue statewide, Rep. John Mills, R-Volga, said.

Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton, said the eligibility map wouldn't affect any waterways in her home county of Marshall.

Wismer urged the agricultural community to look for more opportunities to encourage conservation along waterways.

Rep. Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell, said she ran into a similar challenge in her area. Rozum said waterways that don't always have water wouldn't be eligible.

Wismer said they are prone to erosion because they are farmed sometimes.

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"I think this is great for wildlife in our state," Rep. Tom Pischke, R-Dell Rapids, said.

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