U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Protecting Future Farmland Act. This new legislation will support farmers’ land stewardship efforts as many choose to deploy solar energy on their land. Legislation will ensure that federal investment in rural energy projects prioritizes both land stewardship and responsible deployment of renewable energy. This will protect America’s farmlands for future cultivation.
“While many farmers are choosing to expand clean, renewable energy – supporting energy independence and increasing revenues of their operation – we need to support our farmers’ land stewardship efforts and help them protect the farmland that is critical to the future of our rural economies and national food security,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am proud to partner with my Republican colleague to lead legislation that will give our farmers who want to expand solar operations the tools they need to continue responsibly managing our soil, water and nation’s heartland.”
Agricultural landowners are interested in using their land for solar energy production. Farmland and ranchland accounts for 83% of new solar projects.
Currently, there isn’t a coordinated federal strategy for land management below solar arrays. Many farmers and land owners are concerned about the quality of agricultural land after a solar lease ends.
The Protecting Future Farmland Act would:
- Prioritize federal assistance to those renewable energy projects that have in place soil, water, and vegetation management and conservation plans.
- Collect data on conversion of farmland to solar energy and direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to deliver a report to Congress on report on the benefits and impacts of solar energy development on agricultural land.
- Authorize the National Resources Conservation Service to develop best practices for protection of soil health and productivity.
- Authorize the National Resources Conservation Service to provide technical assistance to farmers growing crops or managing grazing below or in tandem with solar energy systems.
- Define agrivoltaic systems and authorize USDA to conduct a study on agrivoltaic systems including compatibility and risk-benefit analyses.