Tennessee Farmers Forced to Fight for Their Land Against Eminent Domain

(AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)

Here is yet another story about a government using eminent domain to steal property from its citizens. In this case, the state of Tennessee is seeking to seize land from farmers in order to benefit a private business.


About a year ago, Ford Motor Company began building an electric truck plant in BlueOval City, a rural area of west Tennessee. It was met with optimism from the community at the prospect of having new jobs for residents. The government was enthused about the idea of having another source of tax revenue and made generous offers to the company to establish its plant in the state.

Now, Tennessee’s government is seeking to acquire land to build a roadway to offer better access to the plant. The issue is that, in several cases, they are using eminent domain to forcibly take the land from its owners while severely underpaying them, according to Tennessee Lookout.

Marvin Sanderlin, a local farmer who owns 400 acres of land, told the news outlet that he was happy about the new plant, but the state has sued him to acquire 10 acres as it “lies in the path of a planned roadway” that would connect the facility to the nearby interstate highway. The government is offering him only $3,750 per acre, which he says is “unheard of.”

“You can’t buy no land here for $3,500 an acre. You can’t buy a swamp here for $3,500” he said. “I told them this is the biggest ripoff there is. They want your land, but they don’t want you to participate in the wealth.”

The article notes that the planned route “winds through predominantly Black-owned properties in Tipton, Haywood, and Fayette Counties.”


From the report:

According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the state is seeking 35 separate tracts, either through purchase or eminent domain, in order to construct a series of road connections and widenings that will link the 4,100-acre BlueOval Ford campus to the new Exit 39 off I-40 to accommodate throngs of workers and truck traffic.

Thus far, the state has taken possession of 15 tracts — two through court proceedings, Nichole Lawrence, a spokesperson said. Of the remaining 20 tracks [sic], Lawrence said the state is in negotiation with property owners. It’s unclear how many land owners the state has sued. In Haywood County alone, court records show, the state has filed seven lawsuits seeking to take property for the new interchange.

Another resident named Ray Jones was served with an eminent domain lawsuit earlier this year to acquire an acre of his property for $8,165. The land is located over a natural mineral spring.

“My whole beef?  All the people are benefiting from BlueOval and that’s good. We are 100% in support of BlueOval. Make sure you quote me on that. But then you want to take my spring and give me pennies on it? It’s an unreasonable situation,” Jones said.

These are only two of the stories of farmers who are being railroaded by their government. Unfortunately, it is all too common when it comes to eminent domain cases. The Constitution mandates that the state provides “just compensation” when they seize someone’s property. But what the government deems to be “just” tends to be far below what the land is worth.


Originally, eminent domain was to be used only for the facilitation of building roads, bridges, canals, and other types of infrastructure to provide a benefit to society. But in 2005, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in the case of Kelo v. City of New London that expanded the scope of the practice to include economic development. This means that the state can forcibly take someone’s land to make way for a major corporation or other such entity as long as it can argue that it will somehow benefit the public.

The government’s ability to take away private property for public use represents a significant encroachment on the autonomy of citizens, who should have the right to use and enjoy their possessions without fear of arbitrary confiscation. When the government has the power to take away private property without the owner’s consent, it undermines the basic principle of private ownership and the sanctity of property rights.

Eminent domain can also be used for purposes that are not truly in the public interest, but rather to benefit a particular group or individual with political influence. In practice, the government can use eminent domain to transfer land from less powerful or wealthy owners to more influential individuals or corporations who may have a personal stake in the development of the seized property. This is a clear violation of the spirit of eminent domain, which should only be used when there is a genuine public need that cannot be met by other means.


I recently wrote about a situation in Texas in which the state is colluding with the city of San Antonio to steal a man’s business so it can make some renovations to the Alamo. Since they do not want to pay the owner’s asking price, they are using the power of the state to force the issue. I also spoke at a protest against this horrid maneuver. Eminent domain is one of the most egregious forms of tyranny our government metes out against the citizenry. Hopefully one day, we the people can put a stop to it.

The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.


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