Jefferson City, Mo.. — Govt. Mike Parson signed a law this weekend that guarantees greater protections for Missouri residents cultivate and ranch families in certain eminent domain proceedings.
Parson signed House Bill (HB) 2005 of Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, who has long championed prominent estates reform in the General Assembly. HB 2005 changes how electrical companies can use eminent domain. It will not come into force until later this year.
“We are pleased to join the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, farmers and ranchers across the state in signing this long-awaited legislation,” Parson said. “As a farmer myself, I understand the importance of strong property rights and that no farmer wants to be forced off the family farm by the government or anyone else. That’s why we’re signing HB 2005. This legislation provides fair protections for our farm families, reinforces the use of eminent domain, and ensures that 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, having grown up on a farm near Hickory County.
HB 2005 was one of many bills that passed through the legislature as the session drew to a close. It passed 19-10 in the Senate and 111-32 in the House.
In order to use eminent domain under HB 2005, power companies must have a substation or converter station in Missouri that provides an amount of power proportional to the length of their transmission line in the state .
Utilities have seven years to secure a financial commitment for the project. If the company does not obtain a financial commitment or appropriate funds within this time frame, the property must be returned to the original title within 60 days. No refund will be due in this situation.
The bill also stipulated that compensation for farmland would now be 150% of fair market value. The fair market value of the donated land will be determined by the courts.
HB 2005 established new rules for proceedings in eminent domain cases. Now, in sentencing 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 gave a court the power to dismiss the case if it came to the conclusion that good faith negotiations had not taken place. If the eminent domain claim is denied by the court, then the sentencing authority will be responsible for reasonably reimbursing the owner for any court or other costs incurred in the case.
Utilities that operate under a cooperative business plan are exempt from the bill’s requirements.
“This bill is about the farmers and ranchers across our great state who come to Jefferson City and thrash the halls of the Capitol every week,” said R-Butler County Sen. Jason Bean, who led the bill through the upper house.
“These farm families have been making their case for years and with the expected approval of more electric transmission projects, the time has come for property rights reform…Missourians shouldn’t have to spend their money hard-earned legal fees trying to get a fair price for their land; their livelihood, which is simply not for sale.
Bean, who owns and operates his family farm, represents SD 25, which encompasses most of southeastern Missouri’s Bootheel and includes many farms and farming communities. In the Senate, Bean serves as Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Food Production and External Resources. He also sits on the Trade, Consumer Protection, Energy and Environment Committee.
“We embrace economic development, especially when it comes to improving our electrical grid,” said Haffner, who represents House District 55 on Missouri’s western border. “But we won’t do this on the backs of Missouri farmers, ranchers and the agriculture 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 to the entire farming community,” Agriculture Director Chris Chinn said in a statement. “It’s important to protect every opportunity for the next generation to return to Missouri farms and ranches.”
HB 2005 will only affect eminent domain proceedings that occur after August 28th.
Featured Image: Governor Mike Parson attends the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association Annual Steak Fry Dinner. Parson signed into law HB 2005 last weekend. (Provided)