Expansion of the power grid could put some of the nation’s farms out of business, according to a new lawsuit.
A massive power line project is threatening the future of an organic dairy farm near New Prague, Minnesota.
“Our whole business is at stake,” farmer Dave Minar told The Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We don’t want to continue dairy farming under high-voltage power lines.”
Minar is worried that stray voltage from the CAPX2020 project which would run a 345,000 volt power line over his farm will shock his cows, reduce milk production and cause health problems in the grass-fed cows. The shocks near water and food sources can make them fearful of drinking or eating.
CAPX2020 is a $2 billion project designed to increase the reliability of the electrical grid in the region around Minneapolis.
Minar and his wife Florence want the companies developing CAPX2020 to purchase their property and pay for the relocation of their Cedar Summit Farm. They’re trying to use a Minnesota statute called the Buy the Farm Law that requires utilities to purchase the properties of farmers whose livelihood gets disrupted by their expansion efforts.
Trouble Finding Organic Property
The Minars need to find 400 organic certified acres within 25 to 30 miles of Minneapolis/St. Paul to run their dairy farm. They want land close to the city so they’ll be close to their customers. Most of their dairy products are sold at natural food outlets in the Twin Cities.
Finding such a farm could be a problem because it can take years to get land certified organic, Dave Minar told The Star Tribune. The Minars are upset because it has taken them 12 years to develop their current farm and retail store. Dave Minar’s grandfather started Cedar Summit Farm.
“We didn’t ask for this power line,” Dave Minar said. “It’s taken a chunk out of our lives for the last four or five years.”
The consortium of power companies developing CAPX2020 has objected to the Minars’ requests because only one power transmission tower would be built on their land. The couple has had to go to court to try and get the companies to pay.
Companies Say They Shouldn’t Have To Pay
The utilities, including Xcel Energy, have tried to refuse to compensate the Minars because they claim the couple’s farm doesn’t meet the criteria set by the law. The utilities are trying to claim that the Minars’ cattle will not be affected by the power line.
“They’re saying we won’t have a problem, but I don’t believe them,” Dave Minar said.
“Everything that can be contested, they’re contesting,” the couple’s attorney, Rod Krass, told the newspaper. “And so this has put incredible pressure and stress on this family. We’re not understanding — given the legislature’s obvious intent to protect people like the Minars — why we’re having to go through all of this.”
The Minars and CAPX2020 will face off in court in late April to determine if their property must be bought out under Buy the Farm. Around 79 property owners have applied to use the law to have utilities buy their land, The Star Tribune reported. Around 46 of the requests have been accepted by utilities.
System Favors Companies
The utilities have spent around $5 million purchasing 18 properties so far. Buy the Farm is the only law of its kind in the United States.
Some farmers and others maintain that the system for compensation under the law favors corporations because of the long process involved. It is taking a very long time to value properties under the law, according to The Star Tribune.
“I think the system is inherently unfair,” State Representative and farmer Andrew Falk (D-Murdock) said of Buy the Farm. “It is stacked against people.”
“We have experienced endless stalling tactics,” farmer Brad Lindberg said of CAPX2020 and Buy the Farm. Lindberg told the Minnesota state House’s Energy Policy Committee that his claim had been delayed for two years.
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