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Farmer Is Told He Can't Sell His Rocks... Without a Permit - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Farmer Is Told He Can't Sell His Rocks... Without a Permit

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Collecting rocks out of your field in the spring is just part of the farming business. It's routine for many ranchers so they don't break their equipment. But one man in Hubbard county, near Bemidji says he was forced to halt operations and now he's taking Helga township to court for his losses. He blew the whistle on Helga township and Valley News team's Eric Crest shares his story.

After purchasing this plot of land in Laporte, Minnesota Doug Crosby had aspirations of creating a ranch, and grazing pasture for some cattle he planned on purchasing. Crosby says he bought the land three years ago with cattle in mind, "prior to me owning this land it was over-grazed and not taken care of properly."

But first, Crosby had to remove the rocks which are prevalent in Hubbard county. But he can't just ship them out or sell them, "they said I'm ok to pile the stuff or to bury it," says Crosby.

But the former Helga Township Board said Crosby would be required to purchase a permit. Those members were since voted out. Now the New Township Board is dealing with the rock drama. Chairman of the Board Donald Clay says they could have solved this problem had Crosby just bought a permit, "he was claiming he was picking rocks in his field and he was selling them and that's fine. You need a permit for that. But he was digging three feet down and running across and selling his top soil."

But Crosby says it's his property and the money made off of the rocks basically just covered his excavation costs. Crosby says that's far from what the township has described as mining, "this is not mining this is normal agricultural practice. We just chose to use some big equipment to get it done faster."

Other farmers in the area are asking the same question Crosby is. Why can't the rocks be sold? One farmer in the are Silas Hooker says the former board likely just had beef that Crosby had the resources to get rid of the rocks. "I think the real issue here is somebody was probably afraid somebody might make a buck. So they thought he needed a permit," says Hooker.

But Crosby wasn't willing to budge or purchase a two thousand dollar permit. He says he stood his ground on principle, "if they're allowed to do this to one farmer where are they going next."

He can cite three Supreme Court cases out of the Midwest that he believes will back him up. "The Supreme Court came down and said rocks out of a farm field are the sale property of that land owner and can be dissolved of with out a permit or license," says Crosby.

Hooker says whether or not Crosby makes any money shouldn't be the concern of the board, "I think they are jealous of the fact that Doug had the ability to get somebody to take the rock. Whether he makes a dollar or a million. It's none of their business."

So after the township forced Crosby to halt the work at his ranch for 60 days he decided he was going to sue them. So that other farmers don't find themselves in the same situation between a rock and a hard place.

"I'm not gonna stop. I will sell. I will find the money. Whatever I gotta do to correct this wrong. So that no other farmer has to go through this," says Crosby.

In November Crosby will take Helga Township to court for lost wages when he was forced to stop production at his ranch. He says he's confident this case could have implications for farmers across not just Minnesota but the nation.

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