Drainage Contractor

Adaptability prevails

Requirements like buffer zones and on-farm water treatment will change the drainage industry for the better.

November 20, 2017  By Jannen Belbeck

It was recently announced that nearly all producers in Minnesota will now have to install buffers along drainage ditches.

According to the Commissioner of the Minnesota department of Agriculture, Dave Frederickson, nearly 300,000 acres of farmland is covered in the state’s Agriculture Water Certification Program so far, a number they expect to rise to half a million acres by the time the buffer zone rule comes into effect on November 1, 2018. While some worry about paperwork and the many regulations associated with these types of incoming laws, drainage contractors will need to adapt and move forward.

Although some states show no sign of implementing buffer rules or requiring water treatment, agricultural runoff continues to be an issue and a common thread at council and conservation meetings across the country. It is likely only a matter of time before we see more rules and regulations put in place.

As technology and environmental law continue to change, so too will the role of the drainage contractor. This shift will require drainage contractors to continue to pursue education and smart investments in innovation in order to keep the industry current.


With environmental concerns being pushed to the forefront, some drainage contractors have begun taking on the additional role of being a reliable source for producers, by providing knowledge about the latest technologies and productivity advancements and how these can lesson environmental impacts of agricultural runoff.

While many in the industry will spend the off-season conducting machinery maintenance, networking at state LICA conventions or taking in some much-needed R&R, others will use the time to continue their education, learning more about the aspects of agriculture drainage, including installing on-farm water treatment, like bioreactors or saturated buffer strips.

To get a head start, check out our cover story, Capturing Nitrogen, which showcases research on establishing installation guidelines for saturated buffer strips. Not only do saturated buffers prevent nitrogen loss, but they help keep the expensive nutrients stay where they need to – in the ground, helping crops flourish.

And so, with all the discussion around changing laws and regulations, one must remember – with change comes opportunity – an opportunity to learn, and in turn, an opportunity to teach producers about the broadening role of the drainage contractor, a theme I’m sure will be made apparent within LICA’s new project.

The association will explore and highlight the history of agricultural drainage in the U.S. and are calling upon contractors to submit their own little piece of history. (Read more!)

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