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Lawmakers ask Parson for special session on agriculture, eminent domain issues


A group of Republican lawmakers implored Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session to tackle agricultural issues — including reforming eminent domain when it comes to utility lines.

Sens. Jason Bean and Mike Bernskoetter as well as Reps. Don Rone and Rick Francis, decried the abrupt end of session brought about by “trivial tactics” in the letter to the governor. They asked Parson to call a special session related to “a number of legislative items directly affecting agriculture in our state.” 

In particular, the group of four agriculture committee leaders pointed to a House bill — which stalled in the upper chamber — that sought to require companies wishing to establish merchant lines to provide proof of support from each county commission it would impact when applying for approval from the Public Service Commission (PSC). It would also prohibit certain groups from using eminent domain to construct merchant lines. 

“This is an issue of great concern for agriculturists and all Missouri landowners, and we have a duty to provide them with certainty moving forward,” the lawmakers said. 

Legislators and landowners have sought to change Missouri’s eminent domain policies for multiple sessions due to concerns over the Grain Belt Express project. After garnering permission from the PSC, the Grain Belt wind energy project is working to develop an overhead and direct transmission line through eight Missouri counties. 

The project said it would deliver about 4,000 megawatts of renewable power and clean energy to about 1.6 million homes per year and create new jobs — including both permanent and temporary construction work. It is also expected to include broadband infrastructure.

Bean, Bernskoetter, Francis, and Rone also pointed to SB 37 from Bernskoetter. Originally dealing with regulation changes to anhydrous ammonia, the bill expanded to include a bevy of agriculture-related issues from extending tax credits to continuing a program that allows SNAP benefits to be used at local farmers markets. 

(The continuation of the SNAP and farmers market program was included on HB 432 from Rep. Hannah Kelly that made it through the legislature and delivered to the governor.)

“As you are aware, agriculture is the number one industry in Missouri. While it was my hope these issues would be heard and voted on in both the House and Senate chambers, they were not,” the letter said. “The legislative issues in the agriculture space were, sadly, overshadowed by trivial tactics at the close of our regular session. I humbly request you consider taking up these fundamental issues during a special session.” 

Rone chairs the House Agriculture Policy Committee with Francis as his vice chairman. Bernskoetter leads the Senate Agriculture Committee with Bean as the vice chairman. 

Lawmakers have requested multiple special sessions from Parson already, from election security issues to extending the FRA.

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