When we hear the phrase "buy the farm," we think of the cliche from the old war movies, not eminent domain.
But in Minnesota, "buy the farm" is taken literally. In Great River Energy v. Swedzinski, No. A13-1474 (Mar. 4, 2015), the Minnesota Supreme Court interpreted that state's "buy the farm" statute, which gives certain landowners the option to require a public utility which is taking an energy corridor easement to buy their entire parcel if certain conditions set out in the statute are met.
To be accurate, the court was not "interpreting" the statute, but reviewing the lower courts' refusal to graft a reasonableness requirement into the statute as Great River, a utility with the power of eminent domain under the statute, had requested, after Great River condemned a permanent easement and a temporary access easement across Swedzinski's land, and Swedzinski exercised the option to require Great River to buy the entire farm.
Great River argued that even though Swedzinski's election qualified under the factors laid out in the statute, it should not have been forced to buy more than was reasonable. It asserted that "the land subject to the election was so much larger than the land needed for the easement." Slip op. at 4. It argued that in addition to the factors spelled out expressly in the statute (wholly owned undivided fee simple interest, timely notice, the land at issue in the election must be contiguous with the condemned parcel, and "commercially viable"), there is an implied requirement of reasonableness under the totality of the circumstances.
Both the trial court and the court of appeals rejected the argument, as did the Supreme Court, reasoning that the legislature spelled out certain factors, and those are the factors -- all of them.
Although in two earlier Minnesota Supreme Court decisions interpreting an earlier iteration of the buy the farm statute the court had required that certain conditions be "reasonable," in Great River it held that the legislature's subsequent amendment of the statute had incorporated these cases' reasonableness requirements, and thus it was not a separate overall requirement under the current version of the statute.
The court recognized that it might make sense from a policy standpoint to have an overall requirement of reasonableness, but we all know where policy arguments get you most of the time in Supreme Court arguments: directions to the legislature. It was no different here. See slip op. at 11-12 ("The policy arguments that Great River advances in support of its theory that the statute should contain additional requirements are properly directed to the Legislature.").