Photo: CapX2020
Farmers in the path of the enormous CapX2020 electric transmission line project have won a victory at the Minnesota Supreme Court against utility companies involved in the project.

The court ruled in the case of landowners in the path of the Brookings, S.D. to Hampton, Minn. portion of the line, compelling Great River Energy to buy their entire farm.

The so-called Buy the Farm law was enacted in 1977 in Minnesota after a farmer uprising against power lines in west central Minnesota (See “Powerline Blues“). It requires utilities to offer to purchase entire farms when traversing fields for the power lines, rather than carving out easements.

But in the CapX2020 project, farmers say their requests are delayed for years, and they complain the law doesn’t work.

In today’s case, Great River balked at buying Dale and Janet Tauer’s property because it was so much larger than the land needed to run the power line through it. But the Supreme Court said the size of the purchase isn’t a factor in applying the Buy the Farm Law.

“Great River’s proposed interpretation of the Buy-the-Farm statute adds factors to the statute, is inconsistent with the statute’s language, and is unsupported by our case law,” Chief Justice Lori Gildea wrote in today’s opinion (pdf).

Gildea says the utility’s complaints are better directed to the Legislature.

In the waning days of the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers tweaked the law by requiring utilities to pay farmers’ costs incurred during the process of selling to the companies.

Over 2,000 farms are in the path of the utility companies’ project.

A fight is percolating in Cook County over the rights of farmers to sell products without interference from the government.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is asking a court to levy a $500-per-day fine on farmer David Berglund, who is refusing to allow state inspectors onto his property.

Lake View Natural Dairy, Berglund’s farm, sells raw milk.

The case is drawing a growing measure of regional and national attention for its converging issues including individual rights and organic farming. Berglund is not commenting to the media, but his attorney Zenas Baer explained the fertile legal territory into which the case has treaded.

“It’s the fundamental right of us as citizens to engage in a private transaction without having the nanny state peering over our shoulder saying, ‘Thou shalt not do this,’ ” Baer said.

According to documents filed by Baer with the court, the Berglund farm is more than 100 years old, having been started by Berglund’s forebearers, who immigrated from Sweden. Located on Cook County Road 56, off the Gunflint Trail northeast of Grand Marais, it features 75-80 head of cattle and some pigs and chickens on more than 700 acres, some owned by Berglund and some leased. The farm sells raw milk, cream, skim milk, butter, yogurt, beef and eggs to customers who visit the farm.

If there’s a fight over farming and freedom, it probably involves milk.

So news of Berglund’s case is spreading quickly.

Nourishing Liberty, for example:

What the Berglunds are doing in providing food to their community is historically what built this country and continues to build communities. They are cultivating land for the purpose of feeding their neighbors. They are adding to the aesthetics of their region by keeping land in production. The Berglund family is lovingly growing community and nurturing bonds between community members.

Now, people who work for the MDA are assuming authority, deciding that they have the right to lord over this peaceful family and demand that the family conduct business in a new way that would, quite literally, put them out of business and steal a wonderful resource from the region.

The fight comes down to this single sentence in the Minnesota Constitution:

Any person may sell or peddle the products of the farm or garden occupied and cultivated by him without obtaining a license therefor.

It’s a 1906 addition to the constitution, first approved by the Legislature after a farmer was arrested for selling melons without a license on the streets of Minneapolis.

In a 2005 ruling, however, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the amendment does not allow a farmer to sell products that are prohibited by law, ruling in the case of Diane and Michael Hartmann of Gibbon, who sold meat and raw milk at their farm.

Being relieved of the need to obtain a license therefore allows farmers to sell the products of their farm without obtaining the government’s permission. That is not to say that article XIII, section 7, protects farmers from any government regulation of the production of farm products for sale.

To regulate is to control or direct by a rule.   In other words, we read article XIII, section 7, to exempt farmers from licensure to sell products but not from substantive regulation of the production or sale of their farm products.

At The Complete Patient, David Gumpert argues there’s a big difference in the cases.

One big difference between Hartmann’s case and Berglund’s is that Hartmann was accused in 2010 of having sold milk that sickened eight people with E.coli O157:H7. Berglund hasn’t been accused of any safety transgressions.

Despite the accusations, Hartmann battled against the MDA’s seemingly relentless pursuit and eventually in 2013 won a court decision in which the agency was ruled to have illegally searched the farmer’s truck. In 2014, a judge dismissed a charge of Hartmann having violated probation; he had been put on probation when he pleaded guilty to a charge of violating regulations, intended for his wife.

A court hearing will be held next week in Grand Marais.

A fashion doll in a milk crate saves a parking space on a residential street in South Boston. The city is ordering removal of such space savers, reigniting the parking wars that pit neighbor against neighbor. Elise Amendola | AP

Who knows whether Minnesota will ever again be the official home of winter in the United States?

On Tuesday, an inch or two of snow triggered nearly 300 crashes across the state. That suggests we’re closer to our southern kin than we’d care to admit.

For this year, anyway, Massachusetts is the king of the hill and here’s the scary part for people who value Minnesota’s image: They’re being positively Minnesotan about it.

Boston, for example, is only 1.9 inches away from breaking the 107.6-inch record set in 1995-96, and more snow could come tonight.

That’s not the thing. This is the thing: A lot of people are rooting for more snow, just so they can break the record, the Boston Globe reports today.

But in Abington, Michelle Mayberger, who owns Happy Dogs Pet Resort, cannot wait for more snow. Her motives extend beyond the record. She has seen a rise in her day-care business, owing to the mountainous drifts that are preventing owners from letting their pups run around their yards. With a plow and snow blower, she has been able to clear good paths for her four-legged friends.

“I’m glad,” she added wryly, “that someone’s enjoying the snow.”

But even those hungry for a record are not entirely united. They fall into two camps: those who want just enough snow to claim the top spot and a decidedly smaller group of those who want to crush it.

“I want to break the record big because it would make history,” said Rufus Huff, who works for Keolis Commuter Services in Wakefield, which operates the MBTA’s still-hobbled commuter rail. “Maybe 10 inches or more, so it will stand for a long time, and maybe never even be broken again.”

That’s either a person who moved from northern Minnesota, or a person who one day will move there.

For those of us who have relatives in the northeast, talking about a disdain of winter is off limits for Midwesterners. We’ve got no standing in the discussion. For this year, anyway, we sound like people from Arizona who complain that it got so cold last night, we had to put on a pair of long pants.

And so we will tuck away the advice of psychiatrist Ned Hallowell for a time if or when an unbearable winter returns to its former home.

“Complaining is the best thing to do,” he tells the Globe. “It’s good for the soul. Don’t suck it up. Don’t look on the bright side. There is no bright side.”

How not to do winter: Snow Wars: Cleveland-Area Neighbors Battle Over Sidewalk Shoveling Dispute (WKYC).