As a retired dairy farmer, I remember the hard fought battles between family farmers and utility companies over high voltage power lines cutting across Minnesota in the 1970s.
One of the outcomes of this was the “Buy the Farm” law. Essentially, this law says that farmers and landowners have the right to require that companies purchase their entire farm if high voltage power lines are forced onto their property. The law was intended to require utilities to fully reimburse farmers and landowners for their land, relocation expenses and lost business.
When I heard that Xcel Energy and the other backers of CapX2020 are claiming that farmers are “voluntarily” relocating their farms and any reimbursements for moving expenses and lost business would be “extra compensation,” I can’t say I was surprised.
But farmers and landowners didn’t have a choice about the high voltage lines cutting across their land. It was forced upon them. The Buy the Farm law has been on the books for 35 years, and Xcel Energy and the rest of them knew it.
But the energy conglomerate backing the project thinks that by using its considerable resources (Xcel Energy alone has 37 registered lobbyists in Minnesota), it can sidestep the law.
CapX2020 is estimated to cost $2.2 billion. With less than 100 landowners expected to file for relocation across the entire state, the attempt to shortchange farmers and landowners is downright petty.
The Minnesota House did the right thing by including in their Ag Omnibus Finance bill language that clarifies the original intent of the Buy the Farm law. That bill is in conference committee right now and the conferees from both the House and Senate should stand up for family farmers and make sure the Buy the Farm clarification is included in the final bill.
Land Stewardship Project member Alan Perish lives near Browerville, Minn.