By Thomas Marten
Stark County Farm Bureau Manager
Last week I briefly touched on a solar farm proposal in neighboring counties as well two trans-state “clean lines.” I’d like to continue to share with you efforts that Illinois Farm Bureau and our legal team are working on to defend farmers and landowners.
In northeastern Illinois, a proposed toll railroad is raising the ire of farmers in the way of an over 260 miles lay of track. The entrepreneur has no prior rail experience and out of scores of projects identified to improve Chicagoland rail systems, a tolled bypass was never identified. Most railways have their own track in the region and have not expressed interest in the proposal. The project also calls for 15,000 acres for a railport – significantly larger than the largest in the nation. This $8 billion project needs to answer some questions.
Pipelines have been in the news. In fact, I got to watch some of the Dakota Access Pipeline go through our farms. Pipelines are needed to efficiently move product. In the case with Dakota Access Pipeline, my family used a law firm recommended by Illinois Farm Bureau which was able to help us ensure that the terms of the pipeline’s lease were favorable for them, ourselves and the landowner. Utility projects can be done well as my family has experienced.
There is one type of pipeline though that gives me goosebumps. Natural gas lines are subject to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and federal eminent domain law instead of our state laws. Essentially this makes the fight for a mutually agreeable arrangement far more difficult. Currently there is on proposal in Scott, Greene and Jersey Counties. Another project, Enbridge Line 62 Twin has been approaching landowners in Wisconsin but hasn’t done so in Illinois.
Utility leases, right-of-ways and easements can be tricky. They can sound good but Farm Bureau members should ask for a second set of eyes. Ultimately our lawyers do not replace a lawyer but they provide education, referrals to attorneys with relevant experience and supporting research.
Finally there are crop legal issues. RR Xtend soybeans were approved for the market – a significant hurdle given the layers of research required to bring genetically modified crops from lab to market. These soybeans are able to tolerate the herbicide Dicamba. While the soybeans are marketable, there is one missing piece – Dicamba is not labeled for over-the-top application in soybeans. Because it is not labeled for use in soybeans, farmers can plant the RR Xtend beans but cannot spray Dicamba. Somebody put the cart before the horse.
By Thomas Marten