JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After years of work, Missouri’s agriculture coalition was finally able to move a property rights bill through the Senate.
Rep. Mike Haffner’s HB 2005, enhances protections for Missouri property owners when private companies seek to use eminent domain to build high-voltage electrical transmission lines — like the Grain Belt Express Project. The bill was deftly moved through the upper chamber by Sen. Jason Bean.
“This bill was about the farmers and ranchers from across our great state that travel to Jefferson City and beat these halls weekly. 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,” Sen. Jason Bean said.
“We can’t wait any longer or more farm families will face the cumbersome and expensive process of condemnation proceedings,” the Republican representing the Bootheel continued. “No one should have to spend their hard earned money in legal fees trying to get a fair price for their land; their livelihood, which simply isn’t for sale.”
The bill progressed to the Senate after passing the House 102-41.
“HB 2005 fixed numerous problems with current Missouri statute dealing with eminent domain and protects the property rights of Missouri’s Farmers ranchers and landowners,” Haffner said. “If land is going to be condemned for a utility the landowner will get 150 percent of fair market value.”
“Additionally the utility must benefit the state of Missouri by dropping power to Missourians. Finally, if condemnation is going to occur, the court must appoint a farmer as part of the process to determine fair market value. This is a win for Missouri landowners,” he said.
The praise for the compromise legislation has come from all corners, including Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe.
“As a first generation farmer, I have a first-hand perspective of the importance of agricultural property. For the farmer, land is more than just an asset; it is a way of life that often transcends generations,” Kehoe said. “I am grateful for the work of Sen. Bean, Rep. Haffner, Missouri Farm Bureau, and other interested parties who have worked so hard to protect agricultural land from being taken by the government.”
The legislation is the culmination of several years of work to limit the Grain Belt Express, a private corporation, from building a transmission line across northern Missouri. Critics have said that the company was simply using Missouri as a highway to produce power for the East Coast.
“After nine years of fighting to pass landowner protections, it was time for the legislature to act
and defend landowners and farmers from unwarranted eminent domain abuse. I’m proud to stand with my fellow farmers to get this important legislation across the finish line,” said Sen. Justin Brown. “Agriculture organizations and landowners have been working to enact reforms and this was the year for success, thanks to the perseverance of leaders like Missouri Farm Bureau’s Garrett Hawkins and Missouri Cattlemen Association’s Mike Deering.”
The bill was ultimately a compromise — meaning not everyone was happy with the outcome.
“[The] compromise on Grain Belt was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately it unfairly treats land and home owners differently based on IOUs or Invenergy seeking eminent domain or if you have a co-op or a municipally owned electric utility seeking eminent domain,” Democratic Sen. Doug Beck said. “Why should someone’s home or family land value be based on what energy source is coming through their neighborhood?”
With the entire Missouri agriculture community coming together to support the legislation, there was encouragement from Senate Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, who had praise to go around.
“It was an incredible honor to stand with Missouri landowners last night to ensure a greater respect for private property rights in the Show-Me State in the years to come. The passion of Garrett Hawkins and Missouri Farm Bureau, Casey Wasser and the Missouri Soybean Association, Mike Deering and the Missouri Cattlemen Association, and the entire team of folks committed to standing up for farmers and landowners in Missouri was infectious and certainly helped motivate us to get this bill done this year,” Rowden said.
That praise was echoed by the Missouri Soybean Association’s Wheeler: “Missourians have demanded a comprehensive law protecting our farmers and ranchers while progressing our state. We want to thank Sen Rowden and Sen. Bean for their hard work and willingness to assist in negotiating this important protection.”
The bill has passed the House Rules Committee and is on the calendar of House bills with Senate amendments, with an expectation of passing before the legislature adjourns this week.
“Congratulations to Senator Bean on his leadership in passing HB 2005 which protects Missouri farmers and America First energy production,” said Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman. “I look forward to supporting Rep. Haffner on the floor to send this important legislation to the Governor’s desk.”
Sen. Bean said: “The leadership shown from agriculture groups like Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri Cattlemen’s provided the foundation to pursue a fair negotiating position. You saw that in Garrett Hawkins and Mike Deering staying all through the night to see this deal through. They fight that hard because their heart is in it and that passion can’t be bought off with unfair deals. From the beginning, they were adamant that if eminent domain is used, Missourians had better see a real benefit and it won’t come at the expense of Missouri farm families.”
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.