Unregulated green energy threatens family farms in Clinton County


In the May 10 CP Edit, Clinton County officials and residents are portrayed as NIMBY-driven opponents of clean energy. This perspective fails to understand that Clinton County’s planning and zoning commission is experiencing turnover and a transition in leadership while navigating a possible onslaught of incoming wind and solar companies. Additionally, Eagle Township, in Clinton County, is staring at the possibility of a state-sponsored megasite that could cause the loss of 2,000 acres of farmland. Cascading development could easily cause another 2,000 acres of farmland to be lost. As a result, the township and county may be expected to account for an additional 10,000 residents if the megasite comes to fruition. The megasite and cascading development could cause farming in Eagle and Watertown townships to be wiped out — causing several family farms to go out of business. Clinton County is not ready for the task of effectively managing the amount of change that is coming down the pike in the area of planning and zoning. A moratorium, at this moment, is necessary. 

As for understanding the operation of cash-crop farming, the May 10 CP Edit fails to understand that most cash-crop farmers in Clinton County lease, not own, the vast majority of the farmland they use. Large-scale solar projects threaten family farms. The USDA reported that from 2014 to 2021, 13.62 million acres of farmland have been lost nationwide. The solar industry threatens to take more by targeting private landowners and offering them a lease or purchase of their agriculturally zoned land at a price that is exponentially higher than that of a farm lease. This will trigger simple supply and demand economics — driving up the price of land leases and land values based on solar speculation. Tax benefits that are referenced are also very lofty. Large-scale solar farms will seek a renaissance zone allowing them tax exemption from certain taxes such as state education tax, personal and real property tax and local income tax. Farmers are facing challenges from urban sprawl, land speculation, megasite development, foreign investment and now wind and solar projects. Where is the protection for the farmers? 

Brownfields and land otherwise unsuitable for farming need to be prioritized over using farmland for clean energy. Adding solar panels on large industrial complexes and in regional industrial parks are a few examples of how land conservation can be done while moving toward clean energy. General Motors has roughly 250 acres that could be utilized for wind and solar at their Delta Township site. Detroit has 14,000 vacant acres that would benefit from the addition of clean energy infrastructure. Greenfield development is used as a soft target for a wide variety of development, while brownfields lay dormant for decades. Once our finite supply of farmland is taken, it is never returned.

I do believe in wind and solar when properly implemented, but we do not need to eat up productive farmland for this initiative. Clean energy need not be a threat to farmers across the state, but if solar and wind is allowed to run unfettered, it will threaten the livelihood of farmers. A targeted approach is needed with renewables that minimizes regional impacts to local agricultural assets. When the author of The CP Edit states that we need a sea wall against the rising NIMBY tide, it could be translated as we in the state government know what your community needs better than you. This top-down mindset creates a slippery slope, and lobbyists will have a field day if control is wrestled from local governments. Hurling insults and diminishing viewpoints is no path toward a compromise. The NIMBY argument is convenient for those that do not take the time to hear people’s real concerns. This is not a NIMBY issue.  


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Connect with us