You’ve probably never heard of the “Buy the Farm” law, but if you think corporations have too much power and that it’s time to put people before corporate profits, this is a law worth knowing about.
The “Buy the Farm” law is a result of the hard fought negotiations between family farmers and utility companies over high power transmission lines cutting across farmland in the 1970s. Under this unique 1977 legislation, farmers have the right to require that utilities purchase their entire farm if high voltage power lines are forced onto their property. This law was intended to require that utilities reimburse farmers for their land, relocation expenses and lost business.
It’s an example of public policy that doesn’t subjugate the interests of people to the interests of corporations, something that we could use a lot more of in our local, state and federal laws.
The “Buy the Farm” law has been rarely used over the past 35 years. However, with construction underway of the CapX2020 high voltage power line, the law has renewed importance to family farmers and landowners across Minnesota.
CapX2020 is a massive, $2.2 billion project, which will erect 650 miles of new high voltage power lines across Minnesota. Today, the energy conglomerate behind CapX2020 is trying to avoid paying its fair share to family farmers negatively impacted by the power lines. Using their considerable resources to blur the intent of the law (Xcel Energy alone has 37 registered lobbyists in Minnesota), they are claiming that farmers are “voluntarily” relocating their farms and that any reimbursements for moving expenses and lost business would be “extra compensation.”
Why it’s Important to Restore the Original Intent of ‘Buy the Farm’ Now
Farmers didn’t have a choice about the high voltage lines cutting across their land—it was forced upon them. The CapX2020 high voltage lines are moving ahead, taking land and slicing across farms. Right now, Minnesota family farmers and landowners are wrestling with difficult decisions about the future of their families and their livelihoods.
The least the CapX2020 backers can do for family farmers and landowners is to compensate them fully and promptly. That is the intent of the original “Buy the Farm” law. However, since the utilities have challenged that in court and won at the appellate court level, legislation is needed to clarify that it is the obligation of the utility companies to pay for relocation and lost business costs. They also must set a time frame for payment that works for farmers and landowners.
It’s About Justice
The “Buy the Farm” law is unique to Minnesota and it is a testament to our state’s commitment to justice. When the extraordinary powers of taking land from people are exercised, we, the people of this state, must do what we can to lessen the burden of those whose land is being seized. Ensuring people will be promptly and fully reimbursed by the utility companies for all expenses related to the taking of land for high voltage transmission line projects is the least we can do.
That’s why a broad range of organizations from the family farm, sustainable energy, social justice, local business and faith communities support keeping the Buy the Farm law true to its original intent.
Take Action Today
Next week the Minnesota Legislature will be taking up this issue in the Environment and Agriculture Finance Conference Committee. The House has included good language in its bill to clarify “Buy the Farm.” If the Senators on the committee agree to accept the House position, the bill will go to Governor Mark Dayton’s desk, affirming our state’s commitment to putting people ahead of corporate profits.
But the Conference Committee needs to hear from you. There is a lot of legislation wrapped up in these bills and the Committee members need to know that the “Buy the Farm” law is important to Minnesotans. Please read this action alert and take a simple step that could make a huge difference to family farmers across Minnesota.
Mike McMahon is an LSP staff member. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-722-6377.