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Sen. Baldwin introduces bill to protect farmland while still making way for renewable energy development


The number of farms in Wisconsin has slowly decreased over the years.

The total number of farms in Wisconsin in 2021 was 64,100, down 300 farms from 2020 according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

A 2022 report also found farmland decreased slightly in 2021 for the first time in five years.

It’s a similar picture across the U.S.

As farmers look to earn more money, some have turned toward leasing their property to renewable energy developments like solar array.

Some in the agricultural field are concerned too farmland is going towards solar fields and that it won’t be in good condition once the lease expires and the array is removed.

Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin says she heard these concerns from farmers at a roundtable conversation last summer.

She’s introduced a bipartisan bill with Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley to protect and invest in farmland used for renewable energy developments.

“I certainly think that concern has been voiced by farmers that I've spoken with in Wisconsin. One of the things that this bill does is it defines a term called agrivoltaic, and looks at the prospect of dual use of the land. So can we have a solar installation, and also have grazing on the same land?” said Baldwin.

The bill’s main focus is making sure once something like a solar array installation is removed, the land is still viable for growing.

It prioritizes clean energy projects that have in place soil, water, and vegetation management and conservation plans.

“I think it addresses many of the issues that have been raised in rural America as we're seeing incentives to create more solar installations for clean energy generation, but the tension that has with the active use of farmland,” said Baldwin.

Baldwin says the bill is also meant to give farmers the tools they need for best practices when it comes to installing solar installations on their land.

You can view the Protecting Future Farmland Act here.

You can read a one page on it here.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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