Summary

Eminent domain powers should only be used for proven public needs. Private investors who do not serve Missouri citizens should not have the power of eminent domain. Projects like the Grain Belt Express, as currently proposed, should not have eminent domain power.

Background

Property rights are extremely important to Farm Bureau members. In recent years we have seen a number of attempts to infringe on property rights. As these issues arise, MOFB will continue to work with legislators to ensure landowners’ rights.

Missouri Farm Bureau was a key advocate in reforming Missouri’s eminent domain law. We believe the use of eminent domain should be held for only most necessary situation and should not be allowed for the purpose of private development or recreation facilities.

Status

MOFB policy opposes the Grain Belt Express project. Our members do not believe a private entity should be given the power of eminent domain to take private property when it does not serve the people of the state. This merchant transmission line will carry power to other states rather than benefiting Missourians. In early 2019, the Missouri Public Service Commission granted Clean Line Energy a Certificate of Need and Necessity. This certificate also gave the company the power of eminent domain. Missouri Farm Bureau and other property right advocates support legislation to prevent private merchant transmission lines from being granted eminent domain.

In 2019 the Missouri house passed HB 1062 by Rep. Jim Hansen. This bill would have prevented merchant transmission lines from being granted the power of eminent domain. HB 1062 passed the House by a vote of 115 – 35. It was taken up and passed out of committee in the Senate. Unfortunately the Senate did not take up the bill for consideration in the final days of its 2019 session. MOFB will continue to advocate for similar legislation in future legislative sessions.

MOFB Policy

We believe that Farm Bureau should use its resources and expertise to persuade public officials or candidates to respect private ownership of property and the chain of title that guarantees the ownership of private property.

We urge strict adherence to the Missouri “Private Property Rights” law which requires state governmental agencies to review and modify their proposed rules and regulations in order to prevent the further loss of private property rights. We favor passage of a similar bill at the federal level.

A property owner should be allowed to have a cause of action against a governmental entity to recover damages if such governmental entity applies a statute, rule or regulation that reduces the use of the individual’s property or the fair market value of the individual’s property.

We oppose the use of off-shore drilling fees for purchase of private lands.

We oppose the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) or similar legislation that would significantly increase funding for federal and state land acquisition.

Missouri Supreme Court rulings have upheld key provisions of Missouri’s eminent domain reform law enacted in 2006. If legal challenges weaken the law, we support necessary modifications to protect property rights.

We oppose government action that would deny, postpone or restrict the property rights of landowners without just compensation such as the Natural Streams Act, wetlands, Endangered Species Act, railway and utility abandonment, and reintroduction of fish and wildlife species.

The government acquisition of land and buildings should be severely restricted in cases where reasonable alternatives are available. We oppose the acquisition of land and buildings from an unwilling seller simply to keep development within a particular political boundary.

We support Missouri’s eminent domain reform law, which strengthens the protection of landowners from condemnation with assurance that needed rural infrastructure such as roads, power lines and water and sewer lines can be built in a timely and economical manner with equitable compensation granted to all affected landowners. We believe entities with condemnation authority should be required to consider alternate routes and to directly notify and publicly disclose routes for proposed right-of-way expansion to affected landowners.

We oppose the use of eminent domain for the acquisition of land to be resold to private owners or for the transfer of property from one private entity to another for the purpose of economic development. We believe that easements acquired by an entity with condemnation authority should return to the landowner if unused after ten years. We oppose granting eminent domain authority to cable companies or any other entities that do not already have eminent domain authority.

We believe eminent domain authority should not be used for purposes of private development or recreational facilities, and the term “public use” in eminent domain statutes and the state constitution excludes these purposes.

We support further restrictions on the use of eminent domain to acquire blighted property in both urban and rural areas.

We believe landowners in eminent domain cases should have five years from the time of the original settlement in which to negotiate claims for damage from construction and maintenance that may not have been confirmed at the time of the initial settlement.

We support changes to the Missouri Constitution which promote our established policy on property rights. Furthermore, if deemed to be a valuable tool to that end, we support the use of a Missouri Farm Bureau initiated initiative petition process to effect those changes.

We believe the activities of departments and agencies of the state and federal government should be more transparent and accountable to the taxpayer. Therefore, all departments and agencies of the state and federal government should be required to notify county commissioners and district legislators representing the county in writing, prior to negotiating a contract land purchase, option to purchase, lease, donation, easement agreement or taking by eminent domain.