Maryland Farm Bureau Takes Positions on Solar Facility Siting, Nutrient Trading

A Delmarva Farmer article (2016-12-13) reported that the Maryland Farm Bureau took positions on an array of topics – including the siting of utility scale solar facilities and nutrient credit trading – at the group’s annual convention in Ocean City. The article noted the attending Farm Bureau delegates weighed property rights against the loss of productive farmland as part of its solar facility debate and ultimately voted to oppose the location of utility scale solar facilities on prime farmland and several other limiting measures:

Debate on commercial solar facilities largely centered on a landowner’s property rights versus the rising loss of cropland and farmers’ access to it.

“They bought that property, they should be able to do what they want,” said Joe Kuhn of Carroll County.

Other delegates who spoke said the issue should stay at the county level, while it was added the state’s Public Service Commission could override a county’s decision on an energy project.

With the solar industry subsidized through grants and tax credits, Harry Moreland of Caroline County said “farmers are forced to compete against their own tax dollars to rent or lease farmland.”

Delegates voted to oppose such facilities receiving an agricultural tax assessment, supported removing large-scale commercial facilities from the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard carve-out for solar energy and voted to “not support commercial solar energy facilities on prime and productive farmland.”

Delegates also approved policy that facilities “should have appropriate riparian buffer and setback requirements.”

The article also stated that nutrient credit trading prompted the longest discussion of any of the considered issues:

The proposed language would have removed support for voluntary mechanisms for nutrient reduction.

Instead, the proposed policy would stipulate that Maryland Farm Bureau opposed nutrient trading in Maryland.

Several delegates spoke in opposition to the proposed change, arguing that outright opposition to nutrient trading would remove Farm Bureau from the table during consideration by state agencies.

Delegates rejected the policy change¸ opting to retain the original language and give staff the room to work with the agencies and impact the discussion.

The article discussed numerous other issues taken up for a position, including: (1) event venues as an allowed accessory use; (2) increasing resources and streamlining the approval  process for state and federal cost share programs; (3) prohibiting state and local pesticide restrictions that go beyond federal requirements; (4) opposing a proposal by the Maryland Department of the Environment use Bay Restoration Funds to “jump start” a Maryland nutrient credit trading program; (5) the shooting of bears that are damaging bee hives; (6) aquaculture; (7) poultry best management practices for good neighbor relations; (8) farm tire collection and recycling; (9) ending the school year by June 15; (10) extending deer hunting season through February; and (11) supporting the University of Maryland and its College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.