(The Center Square) – Utility companies and governments acquiring agricultural or horticultural land through eminent domain will be required to pay 150% of the fair market value under a bill enacted by Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson.
House Bill 2005, sponsored by Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, addresses cases where utility companies use eminent domain to purchase property owned by farmers and ranchers to build electric transmission lines. In many cases throughout the years, payments for the land were little more than market value. The new law states the land’s value will be determined by the courts.
The bill was sent to the governor’s desk late in the legislative session. It was the fourth year the bill was introduced. It was supported by the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Corn Growers, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association and other agricultural organizations.
“As a farmer myself, I understand the importance of strong property rights and that no farmer wants to be forced from the family farm by the government or anyone else,” Gov. Parson said in a statement after signing the bill at the Missouri Cattlemen’s annual Steak Fry Dinner on Saturday. “This legislation provides fair protections for our farm families, tightens the use of eminent domain and ensures the interests of Missouri farmers are always considered and balanced with the public good.”
When condemnation proceedings are to be held and disinterested commissioners are appointed, the new law states at least one member must be a local farmer who has operated in the county for at least 10 years.
The law requires electrical corporations to have a substation or converter station in Missouri and to provide an amount of electrical energy proportional to the length of the transmission line in the state. Utilities will be required to secure the necessary financial commitments within seven years of when an easement is involuntarily taken or the easement must be returned to the original title holder.
“This bill is about the farmers and ranchers from across our great state that travel to Jefferson City and beat the halls of the Capitol weekly,” Sen. Jason Bean, R-Holcomb, and a farmer with a degree in agronomy, said in a statement. “These farm families have made their case for years, and with the expected approval of more electric transmission projects the time for property rights reform was absolutely now.”
Haffner emphasized the need to balance increasing energy needs with agricultural concerns.
“We embrace economic development, especially when it comes to improving our electrical grid,” Haffner said. “But we will not do it on the backs of Missouri farmers, ranchers and the Missouri agricultural industry.”