Sen. Claxton introduces bill to help protect prime agricultural lands

Posted: April 05, 2021 | Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Senator Claxton

AUGUSTA – On Thursday, Sen. Ned Claxton, D-Auburn, introduced a bill that would help ensure that prime agricultural lands are not used for siting solar arrays. LD 820, “Resolve, To Convene a Working Group To Develop Plans To Protect Maine’s Agricultural Lands When Siting Solar Arrays,” was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

“Large solar arrays are extremely valuable to our state but require a lot of land,” said Sen. Claxton. “It only makes sense that we do our best to ensure that valuable lands which could be used for current and future farming, don’t end up being used to site solar arrays, where soil quality and other factors have little influence.”

LD 820 would require the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to convene a working group to study ways and develop a plan to discourage the use of land with high agricultural value from being used for siting solar arrays. The Department would also be required to submit a report on its findings to the relevant legislative policy committees in January 2022.

Heather Spalding, Deputy Director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), submitted testimony in support of the bill.

“We enthusiastically support efforts to protect Maine farmland and keep it in agricultural production while finding ways to reduce energy consumption and convert our fossil-fuel based energy system to renewables,” said Spalding. “MOFGA hopes that future projects will be assessed based not only on ratepayer benefits, but also on whether the projects avoid or minimize natural resource or agricultural impacts. We also hope that there will be incentives to help farmers afford to keep their land in agricultural production.”

The bill faces further action in committee.