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Parson signs eminent domain reform bill

Jefferson City, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson signed a law this weekend that guarantees greater protections for Missouri’s farm and ranch families in certain eminent domain proceedings. 

Parson signed House Bill (HB) 2005 from Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, who has long championed eminent domain reform in the General Assembly. HB 2005 changes how electrical companies can use eminent domain. It will not take effect until later this year. 

“We are happy to join the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, farmers, and ranchers from across the state to sign this long-awaited legislation into law,” Parson said. “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. That’s why we are signing HB 2005. 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.” 

Parson, a third-generation farmer who owns a cattle operation near Bolivar, has a history with Missouri agriculture, growing up on a farm near Hickory County.

HB 2005 was one of the many bills that made it through the legislature as session neared its end. It passed 19-10 in the Senate and 111-32 in the House. 

In order to use eminent domain under HB 2005, electrical corporations must have a substation or converter station in Missouri that provides an amount of energy proportional to the length of their transmission line within the state. 

Electrical corporations have seven years to obtain financial commitment for the project. If the corporation does not obtain financial commitment or proper funds within that given time, the property must be given back to the original title within 60 days. No reimbursement will be due in this situation

The bill also stipulated the compensation for agricultural land is now 150% of fair market value. Fair market value of the given land will be decided by the courts. 

HB 2005 laid out new rules for proceedings in eminent domain cases. Now, in condemnation proceedings where disinterested commissioners are appointed, at least one member must be a local farmer who has operated in the county for at least 10 years. 

The bill also granted a court the power to dismiss the case if it comes to the conclusion good faith negotiations have not occurred. If the petition for eminent domain is dismissed by the court, the condemning authority will then be responsible for reimbursing the owner reasonably, for court fees or other costs incurred in the case. 

Electrical corporations that operate under a cooperative business plan are exempt from the bill’s requirements. 

“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,” said Sen. Jason Bean, R-Butler County, who shepherded the bill through the upper chamber.

“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 … Missourians shouldn’t have to spend their hard earned money on legal fees trying to get a fair price for their land; their livelihood, which simply isn’t for sale.”

Bean, who owns and operates his family farm, represents SD 25, which encompasses most of the bootheel of Southeast Missouri and includes many farms and agricultural communities. In the Senate, Bean serves as the vice chairman for the Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee. He also serves on the Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee. 

“We embrace economic development, especially when it comes to improving our electrical grid,” Haffner, who represents House District 55 on Missouri’s western border, said. “But we will not do it on the backs of Missouri farmers, ranchers, and the Missouri agricultural industry.”

Haffner chairs the Joint Committee on Agriculture and is a member of the House Rural Community Development Committee. 

“Keeping the farm in the family is important to me, Governor Parson, and the entire agriculture community,” Agriculture Director Chris Chinn said in a statement. “It is important to protect all opportunities for the next generation to return to farms and ranches across Missouri.” 

HB 2005 will only affect eminent domain proceedings that take place after Aug. 28.

Featured Image: Gov. Mike Parson attending the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association’s annual Steak Fry Dinner. Parson signed HB 2005 into law last weekend. (Provided)