Cedar Summit involved in farming legislation

Dave Minar of Cedar Summit Farm north of New Prague is concerned about how power lines will affect his operation. He has been testifying at the Minnesota Legislature about modifications to the “Buy the Farm” bill. (Patrick Fisher Photo)

While poles for the CapX 2020 project are not up in the New Prague area yet, effects of the 345-kV (kilovolt) transmission lines are already being felt.

This is especially true at Cedar Summit Farm. Dave and Florence Minar who run the farm north of New Prague with their family are concerned how the power lines will affect their operation. The fifth-generation farm produces organic milk and dairy products.

The high-voltage poles, averaging a height of 150 feet high, will run across Scott County, part of its route from Brookings County, SD, to Hampton. CapX 2020 is a joint initiative of 11 utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region. It is seeking to expand the electric transmission grid to accommodate customer demand for electricity. The agencies include the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, of which New Prague is a member.

Dave Minar is among those who have been testifying before an energy committee at the state legislature this week. He’s concerned about how the lines may affect the health of his herd and possible affects to the electric fences they use that will be under the power lines.

"We don’t want to be the guinea pigs," said Minar, who was in St. Paul on Tuesday, March 12, testifying before a legislative committee.

The power line will travel along land Minar leases for grazing his cattle and the hay fields where feed for the cattle is grown.

Another affect will be the aesthetics to the area. CedarSummit Farm gives tours of their operation. They also hold "pasture dinners" and Milkapalooza, a festival featuring organic food and dairy products. Minar said the lines would "detract from the appearance of the area."

Minar has been part of the discussions for the placement of the power lines. One alternate route placed the towers south of New Prague. Minar said that pitted people against each other as neither the south or north wanted the lines going through their area. "It turned friends into enemies."

Currently legislators are discussing modifications to the state’s Buy the Farm law. The only type of legislation in the country, it was written to protect farmers who would rather sell their entire property than have a line go through their land.

The law is currently being tested by utility companies. An argument being made by companies is that since landowners chose to be bought out rather than accept an easement condemnation, they don’t have the same eminent domain protections that cities and counties must provide. Utility companies state they are trying to look out for their ratepayers, by not passing the cost of buying a farming operation onto them. Possible modifications being discussed include applying more state eminent domain protections to utility projects.

Minar is among those hoping for modifications to the law, offering fairer compensation to farmers and cover moving costs.

According to Minar it’s "fairly possible" Cedar Summit Farm could be moved to a new area. If they move to farmland that is not certified organic, the operation would have to wait three years to earn that designation. During that time the Minar family could sell milk, but it would not be labeled organic.

"It would put us out of business," Minar said, adding they would lose their customer base.