- Members of the MN House Energy Policy Committee
Help Save Our Organic Grass-fed Family Farm
Update: Dear friends, Roughly 3 months ago, we created a petition to help save Cedar Summit Farm and many others like it, by urging the MN legislature to clarify what has come to be known as the "Buy the Farm" bill. Our numbers quickly rose as the awareness spread about this issue. You have all taken time to sign, write, email, call, and support our cause to strengthen small farms and local agriculture. It is with great pleasure that we can write to you today, and tell you that our actions have been heard!
We have had quite the roller coaster ride the last couple of days. Early Saturday morning, we were sent a message that Sen. Tomassoni had killed the "Buy the Farm" language in the conference committee for the Energy and Ag omnibus bill and that we were out of luck for this session. Sen. Kevin Dahle refused to give up and was able to bring the House file to the floor of the senate on Sunday, where it was passed by a 49-16 bi-partisan vote. Monday, the last day of the 2013 legislative session, the MN house heard the file and passed the bill in a 114-18 bi-partisan vote with the aide of Rep. David Bly.
"Buy the Farm" is a bill that was written to give farmers the option to elect to have the power companies pay them, not only for their land, but for the true cost of relocation. This often entails loss of business, land, moving expenses, and start-up fees. "Buy the Farm'" also forces the CapX companies to stop their stalling tactics and move in a timely fashion. This is about justice for farmers that are being forced to decide whether to be a guinea pig and see if the power lines have an effect on their farm, or risk everything and move. This issue was forced upon us by the power conglomerate, and now we, and many other farmers like us, have options. This is a huge blow to the utility companies who have, to this point, been able to steamroll their way through anywhere they choose for profit. Minnesota is the only state in the union that has managed to get a bill such as this passed. We are a state that is standing up for our farmers' rights.
We are unsure what step will be next for Cedar Summit Farm. Our fight is not over, but this is a big hurdle that we have overcome. We have a lot of very difficult decisions to make in the near future and I assure you, none of them will be taken lightly. We plan to continue to produce the highest quality products, that you and your family have grown accustom to, and weigh our options carefully. Please check in with us periodically to see what is next for Cedar Summit Farm
We want to send a special thanks to the people who really helped us in our fight; Sen. Kevin Dahle, Rep. David Bly, Gov. Mark Dayton, Mike McMahon and Bobby King and the rest of the Land Stewardship Project, Thom Petersen and the MN Farmers Union, our attorney Rod Krass, Rep. Kelby Woodard, countless other farmers and their attorneys who testified, and lastly you, for your calls, support, prayers, and friendship. Without all of you, we wouldn't have succeeded the way that we have.
In closing, I want to send you all a personal invitation to come down to our farm for our annual Milkapalooza festival, Saturday June 22, from 10-3. Come meet the family, see the cows, and take in the scenery that your work and tireless efforts, have helped protect. See our website for more details (http://www.cedarsummit.com/find-us/milkapalooza/) we really hope to see you there so we can thank you personally.
From our family to yours,
The Minars- Dave, Florence, Lisa, Bob, Chris, Linda, Mike, Merrisue, Laura, Eric, Dan, and a whole slough of grandchildren.
In 1973, Minnesota passed a unique law called the “Buy the Farm” amendment. This bill went beyond typical easement issues in regards to the erection of high voltage power lines, and requires the power companies to purchase farm or residential property if requested by the property owner. This law has been rarely used until recently, during the planning and construction of the CapX2020 power line project.
A conglomerate of power companies, including Xcel Energy locally, is building an upgrade to the power grid that will add roughly 800 miles of high voltage power lines throughout Minnesota. During the planning stages, there were meetings regarding the route of the lines through New Prague. Unfortunately, at that time, the plans that were put forth essentially pitted neighbor against neighbor and the decision was made to accept the fate of the power companies. This means that tens of thousands of acres of family owned farmland in the New Prague area will be turned into land for electrical power lines. And because those lines will be high voltage, Cedar Summit may be forced to move from the 185 acres purchased by Val Minar in 1926.
The Buy The Farm amendment provides participating farms with “fair market value” for the property in question. While the law also provides for “reasonable moving expenses and other relocation benefits” the wording is unclear, and the power companies are fighting this measure.
Cedar Summit Farm is a 100% grass-fed and USDA organic operation. Moving or relocating our farm and creamery would require more capital than we are able to pay out of our own pocket. Not only is a parcel of land fitting to our needs hard to come by, but for the land to be certified organic, it would require a minimum three years of work. Additionally, moving our operations would require a time period that would increase our costs considerably, making us unsustainable in the market.
We are grass farmers, first and foremost. Our land is our livelihood. We stopped using chemicals on our land in 1974, began using intensified grazing practices in 1994 and were certified organic 10 years ago. It has taken almost twenty years for us to be able to build up the nutrient rich soil that grows the grasses that our herd eats. The land is a living and breathing organism. We will see a dip in production, possibly in quality, and potentially in the ability for the land to sustain and recharge itself the way that we strive for.
Cedar Summit Farm will go on. We understand the need to upgrade our country's power grid. We realize that we have two choices in this matter and are trying to make the most out of two unfortunate options. We can stay on our current land, and work around high voltage power lines; lines that may affect the health of our employees, animals, and land as well as the overall aesthetics of our farm. Or we can leave our land, property that has been in our family since 1926, move to a new location, and usher in a new era for Cedar Summit Farm.
Please join us in asking the Minnesota Congress to clarify the original intent of the Buy The Farm law and give us the option to continue to grow our family business.
- Members of the MN House Energy Policy Committee
I write to you today, to respectfully and urgently request that you support Rep. David Bly’s proposed changes to Minnesota’s Buy the Farm law orHF338.
Minnesota wisely enacted the Buy the Farm act in 1973. This law justly requires utility companies to purchase a farmer's entire property rather than force them to live and work below high voltage power lines. Unfortunately, this law does not clarify that the utility company must cover the full cost of relocation. This leaves the law open to interpretation creating a situation that makes it impossible for some families to move out from under the power lines path.
Cedar Summit Farm and Dairy is an organic, grass-fed operation. Relocation would require securing a large parcel of land, and three years of time, working the property, to achieve the necessary organic status. This process will be extremely costly; one which our family cannot afford under the current law.
If the Buy The Farm act is not amended to compensate farmers for the true cost of relocating, our family's only option is to remain under the power line. We believe our grass-fed, organic dairy operation will be less successful below the high voltage power lines.
We sincerely appreciate your support of this bill, meant to clarify that utility companies truly give families the option to move out from under the path of power lines.
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