Are you a farmer and impacted by eminent domain? There some things you should consider.
We have represented farmers in many states across the country, but we have more specifically worked with more farmers in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin; which is part America’s heartland and prime farm land.
As any farmer can tell you, if part of the farm is taken, the loss not only includes the loss of the dirt actually taken, but the impact can be so much more. A few of the issues would include the drain tile systems destroyed and terracing ruined. Cutting off rows and adding additional corners can increase operational expenses, which should be included in compensation to the farmer. Separating farm buildings from the land also changes the value of the farm. Moreover, chopping a farm into pieces changes an efficient farm into several smaller farms, which any farmer will tell you decreases the value of their property. For cattle operations or other feeding facilities, the impacts can be much worse. These are all severance damages that are recoverable in condemnation cases.
Taking farm land may also include many other issues. For example, if development is in the area, the use of land as a farm may not be the highest and best use of the land. The highest and best use, or HBU, may also be for future development with the interim HBU as agricultural use. If the HBU is for future commercial, industrial, or residential development, these values are more than likely more valuable agricultural land which means if the government pays ag prices they are not paying enough.
Here is one of our attorney’s, Kelly Keady, sharing some of his thoughts with Agriculture.com in an article titled “Farmers’ Rights vs Eminent Domain”
Here are some of his tips:
- Be skeptical. No buyer goes into a negotiation offering you top dollar right out of the gate. “He is like any other buyer. He wants to purchase the property for as low a price as he can get it,” says Keady.
- Consult an attorney. “Typically, we don’t start getting calls until a landowner is contacted by the agency or group in charge of negotiating an offer for the property,” he says. “We provide a service where we look over the offer for free, and we tell you whether you have a case or not.”
- Pick the right appraiser. Not all appraisers are created equal, says Keady. “The difference between the before value and the after value is just compensation,” he explains. “In order to get the most amount of just compensation, you want a high before value and a low after value.”
The article continues: What that means is the appraiser needs to understand what the land is worth in its highest and best use. “There are a lot of appraisers who don’t do that well,” he says. “All they see is crops growing on the land; they don’t see that it is prime ground in the path of development.” They don’t look at the long-term impact to the property, either. “A lot of appraisers don’t look at the property as a whole,” explains Keady. “For example, if they are taking 20 acres from an 80-acre parcel, they just see it as 20 acres lost.” In reality, the 60 acres that are left may be less efficient to farm, have drainage issues because of severed tile, or may now be separated from farm buildings. These are all factors that make the after value lower, and they need to be recognized.
Not many law firms are knowledgeable in condemnation takings as they impact farmers. We can help, so contact us at (866) 693-6572 for a free consultation.