Part II shows how easily putting industrial solar fields on farmland can destroy the local farms. The solar companies claim they will be creating jobs, but these are only temporary jobs. How many permanent jobs will they be eliminating?
By DAN WAY
But many farmers depend on leasing neighboring land from absentee owners or non-farmers to grow crops and graze animals. Those landowners are increasingly finding it more profitable to lease to solar installations, cutting tenant farmers out of fields needed to stay in business.
For that reason, the spread of solar installations across the farm belt doesn’t necessarily help farmers to remain viable, as the solar industry claims. Often it makes it more difficult, Heiniger argues.
If farmers lack sufficient land to remain viable, they will leave the field, literally. That will create a tumbling domino effect, Heiniger said.
“What’s going to happen to the equipment dealer, feed retailers, fertilizer distributors, people who bring in limestone on rail cars and by the truckload?” Heiniger asked. “They’re not going to be in the business.”
If enough farmland is taken out of production, the infrastructure would collapse, and grain and animal production would move to other states or offshore. By the time 20-year solar installation leases expire it would be extremely difficult to recreate the agriculture infrastructure from scratch, Heiniger warns.
“Everybody tells me that that’s the worst-case scenario. Perhaps it is, but we have lots of examples of that,” Heiniger said, pointing quickly to the disappearance of most of North Carolina’s dairy farms following a government buyout program as one example. The buyout program ended a decade ago, but small dairy farms never revived.
“I think it’s a fear that needs to be addressed as they think about the solar industry disrupting the agriculture community,” he said.
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