JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Editor's note: this article has been clarified to say the bill would affect future projects but not the Grain Belt project.
The Missouri Farm Bureau said Thursday that an eminent domain bill now on the governor's desk would benefit farmers by ensuring their land is not taken away without their consent.
Eminent domain is a law that allows companies working on projects deemed to be in the public good to use privately owned land. Eminent domain has been a concern for Mid-Missouri farmers for a while since a Chicago-based energy company, Invenergy, announced its plans to build an electric line from wind farms in Kansas to Illinois, cutting through Missouri.
The newly passed bill still allows for the Grain Belt Express project to continue but restrains future projects.
The energy company and the Farm Bureau reached a compromise to make this year's bill possible after failures in previous years. Garrett Hawkins, president of Missouri Farm Bureau, said probably 25% of the calls he gets are about eminent domain.
"This legislation is a bold step to at least say that Missouri is no longer wide open and fully exposed to essentially the use of eminent domain for private gain," Hawkins said.
House Bill 2005 requires a company using eminent domain to build electrical lines in Missouri to give landowners 150% of the fair market price for use of their land. It also requires Missouri to get an amount of energy from the line that is proportional to the amount of the line running through Missouri.
Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Hafner (R-Pleasant Hill) stressed the importance of the bill this year as construction on the power line is scheduled to start this summer.
“It is long past time to reform our eminent domain statutes, and provide foundational protection to property owners," Hafner said. "This bill says Missouri is open for economic development, especially to improve our electrical grid, but it will not come on the backs of Missouri farmers, ranchers and landowners.”
Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe is a big supporter of this legislation, participating in a news conference touting the benefits of the bill Thursday.
“This bill puts an end to for-profit abuses of eminent domain. The need for these important reforms to protect our constitutional private property rights is more important than ever,” Kehoe said.
The Grain Belt would be routed through Chariton, Randolph and Monroe counties in Mid-Missouri.