Source: Boston.com

The red brick house sits unassumingly on a sleepy back road where the lush farmlands of northern Vermont roll quietly into Canada. This is the Morses Line border crossing, a point of entry into the United States where more than three cars an hour constitute heavy traffic.

The bucolic setting of silos and sugar maples has become the focus of a bitter dispute that pits one of America’s most revered traditions — the family-owned farm — against the post-9/11 reality of terror attacks on US soil.

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The Department of Homeland Security sees Morses Line as a weak link in the nation’s borders, attractive to terrorists trying to smuggle in lethal materials. The government is planning an estimated $8 million renovation here as part of a nationwide effort to secure border crossings.

It intends to acquire 4.9 acres of border land on a dairy farm owned for three generations by the Rainville family. Last month, the Rainvilles learned that if they refuse to sell the land for $39,500, the government intends to seize it by eminent domain.

The Rainvilles call this an unjustified land-grab by federal bullies.

“They are trying to steamroll us,’’ said Brian Rainville, 36, a high school government and civics teacher whose grandfather bought the farm in 1946 and whose parents and two brothers run it now. “We have a buyer holding a gun to our head saying you have to sell or else.’’

The Rainvilles say the land, where they grow a portion of the feed for 150 head of cattle, is worth far more than the offer, and is critical at a time when the low price of milk has dairy farmers struggling to cover the cost of production.

“It’s like taking a leg off a stool. If you reduce the hay, you reduce the herd; if you reduce the herd, you immediately affect the viability of the farm,’’ Brian Rainville said. “Last year, the farm lost money. Right now, we are hanging on by our fingernails.’’

The family’s many supporters in the area do not dispute that the Morses Line facility, some 50 miles southeast of Montreal, is outdated. But they do not understand why the government needs to spend millions on it.

“The whole thing is a perfect example of waste,’’ said Glen Gurwit of Swanton, a customs inspector for 31 years who frequently worked at Morses Line before retiring in 2004. He said the port is used mostly by locals crossing to visit relatives, play hockey, or shop, and is notable for its “peace, quiet, and isolation.’’

“We used to spend hours watching deer graze,’’ he said.

Homeland Security officials counter that modernizing border facilities should be a national priority. US Customs and Border Protection received $420 million in federal stimulus funds to renovate ports of entry along the Canadian and Mexican borders

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