Dave Minar, right, owner of Cedar Summit Farm, worries high-voltage power lines will affect the quality of his soil. (Photo by Cedar Summit Farm via Creative Commons)
An organic dairy farm in Minnesota has become a high-profile example of the tensions that can emerge as new transmission lines are built through the rural countryside.
The owners of Cedar Summit Farm, in the path of the CapX2020 transmission project, claim the line threatens their business and want Minnesota lawmakers to increase compensation for farms that choose to relocate away from power lines.
If Cedar Summit opts to move, its status as a certified organic farm complicates the process. It takes three years to transition conventional farmland to organic, which means a move could disrupt its certification as well as production of its milk, cream and other products, which are treasured by customers for their high quality.
In an online petition with more than 4,000 signatures, Cedar Summit, which is also renowned for its sustainable agriculture practices, says either the farm will have to move or “work around high voltage power lines … that may affect the health of our employees, animals and land.”
Farm owner Dave Minar told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in February that the farm “can’t be sustainable beneath a high-power line,” and other farmers have expressed similar concerns to lawmakers.
Minar acknowledges, however, that there is little if any science to support that claim.
“We didn’t find any documents studying the effects of this voltage on organic pastures, so the best we can say is there have been no studies,” he told Minnesota Public Radio last week. “The issue here is the lack of data, and we’re not interested in being Guinea pigs.”
In an interview with Midwest Energy News, Cedar Summit sales and marketing manager Ryan Crum said they believe electromagnetic fields (EMF) from the power lines will lower milk production and hurt the health of both the cows and microorganisms in the soil that support organic farming.
While it’s true that existing EMF studies don’t specifically address organic farming, volumes of research have been published on how EMFs affect both humans and animals, including dairy cows.
And from the National Institutes of Health to the World Health Organization, the conclusion of every mainstream health organization to study power-line EMFs in recent decades is that they are not a cause for concern.