Missouri Farm Bureau touts benefits of eminent domain bill for those impacted by Grain Belt Express

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KMIZ)

The Missouri Farm Bureau said Thursday that an eminent domain bill currently on the governor’s desk would benefit farmers affected by the Grain Belt Express power line by ensuring their land would not be taken from them without their consent.

Eminent domain is a law that allows companies working on projects deemed to be in the public interest to use private land. Eminent domain has been a concern for farmers in central Missouri for some time since a Chicago-based energy company, Invenergy, announced plans to build a power line from wind farms in Kansas to Illinois through the Missouri.

The energy company and the Farm Bureau reached a compromise to make this year’s bill possible after failures in previous years. Garrett Hawkins, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said probably 25% of the calls he receives are about eminent domain.

“This legislation is a bold step to at least say that Missouri is no longer wide open and fully exposed to the use of eminent domain for private purposes,” Hawkins said.

Internal Bill 2005 requires a company using eminent domain to build power lines in Missouri to give landowners 150% of the fair market price for the use of their land. It is also necessary for the Missouri to obtain an amount of energy from the line proportional to the amount of line crossing the Missouri.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Hafner (R-Pleasant Hill), stressed the importance of the bill this year, as construction of the power line is expected to begin this summer.

“It is high time to reform our eminent domain statuses and provide fundamental protection for landowners,” Hafner said. “This bill says Missouri is open to economic development, especially to improve our electric grid, but it will not come on the backs of Missouri farmers, ranchers and landowners.

Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe is a big supporter of the legislation, attending a news conference touting the benefits of the bill on Thursday.

“This bill puts an end to for-profit abuses of eminent domain. The need for these important reforms to protect our constitutional rights to private property is more important than ever,” Kehoe said.

The grain belt would be routed through Chariton, Randolph and Monroe counties in Mid-Missouri.