Dairy, utilities end dispute as family sells farm in closely watched case 

Source: Emma Nelson, Minneapolis Star Tribune • Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A coalition of utilities behind a $2 billion power line project are buying a family-owned Minnesota dairy farm, potentially setting a precedent for other farms along the line’s route.

Cedar Summit Farm, which the Minar family has farmed since 1926, announced “with a heavy heart” last week that it will close this Friday or earlier if it runs out of its signature cream-topped, organic milk.

Already stretched thin in the tough organic dairy market, the Minar family sued CapX2020 under Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” law, arguing the 345,000-volt power line across their land constituted a threat to the farm’s existence that required the utilities to buy the land if they wished to sell.

In August, a judge agreed, rejecting the utilities’ position that Buy the Farm didn’t apply because the transmission structure took up less than an acre of the $1.4 million farm.

Dave and Florence Minar declined to comment, but statements from both CapX2020 and Cedar Summit Farm mentioned the family might relocate and resume dairy production.

Thom Petersen, director of government relations for the Minnesota Farmers Union, said other farmers were waiting to see what happened. Many are interested in relocating, but most talk about continuing to farm if they can find land.

“It’s hard to find a farm,” Petersen said. “I think they all want to replicate the operation they have currently.”

Farmers elsewhere are questioning whether Buy the Farm should be expanded from only land crossed by power lines to farms affected by pipelines or wastewater ponds.

“I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve gotten with … people saying, ‘Why can’t we have Buy the Farm for this or that?'” he said.