A tractor in front of solar panels.
May 25, 2022
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Albany, NY

New York State Releases Interim Report From Farmland Protection Working Group

New York State Releases Interim Report From Farmland Protection Working Group
Collaborative Effort Outlines Strategies to Successfully Integrate Renewable Energy Sources Into Working Landscapes

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced the release of the Interim Report from the State’s Farmland Protection Working Group (FPWG). The interim report focuses on preliminary strategies to integrate renewable energy sources into working landscapes with minimal impact on agriculture, including the need for more research; the potential for financial incentives; and proposed tools for State and local governments. These strategies will be expanded and explored by the FPWG in a final report to be released late this year, in order to fully understand their impact on renewable energy siting and agricultural resources.

Commissioner Ball said, “It is my privilege to be in the position to facilitate such important discussions that focus on climate change, renewable energy, and agriculture. In this Interim Report, the Working Group has provided early insights on topics that will evolve into promising consensus strategies. Our work as a group is just beginning, and I am enthusiastic about the future conversations that will strengthen partnerships forming around agricultural and renewable energy development.”

The Interim Report released today specifically focuses on prioritized topics and several associated preliminary strategy summaries that are being expanded and explored by the FPWG to fully understand their impact on renewable energy siting and agricultural resources. Preliminary strategies include:

  • Facilitate further research related to dual-use or co-utilization of agricultural production and utility-scale renewable energy projects, including the expanded use of innovative “agrivoltaics” in project design.
  • Initiate a study assessing all economic pressures impacting New York’s agricultural economy and land use. This study will build on the information contained within the September 2020 CLCPA Final SGEIS and related environmental reviews, and determine the potential benefits and/or burdens of renewable energy development and non-solar land-use conversions related to New York’s agricultural industry.
  • Encourage environmental, habitat, and ecosystem services studies of operating solar projects, with a focus on grassland bird and threatened and endangered species benefits and impacts.
  • Incentivize developers and landowners to continue to utilize land for farming within the project site, co-existing with solar projects.
  • Explore options on how best to disburse Agricultural Mitigation Payments to assist local agriculture-supporting efforts.
  • Create a State level working lands management plan.
  • Update local farmland protection plans to reflect siting of renewable energy facilities.
  • Update NYSERDA’s model solar energy local law to enhance treatment of and provide options to address agricultural issues.
  • Create a plan to more comprehensively pre-screen sites for presence of natural resources.

The Interim Report can be found online at agriculture.ny.gov/land-and-water/2022-interim-report-new-york-state-farmland-protection-working-group. Adoption of all final detailed strategies and recommendations by consensus of the FPWG is expected to occur in late 2022.

Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “DEC is proud to partner with the other members of the State’s Farmland Protection Working Group, working to ensure a more sustainable and prosperous future for New York farms. The interim report recommendations released today provide strategies to address climate change through renewable energy options that support farmers while also promoting the protection of critically important farmland in New York State.”

Doreen M. Harris, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, “NYSERDA is proud to work with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, agricultural industry partners and stakeholders, as well as other partner agencies, to bring forward this Interim Report that includes preliminary strategies for ensuring the State is protecting lands of agricultural importance as we work to achieve our clean energy goals. We look forward to solidifying these efforts with the Farmland Protection Working Group recommendations that will further study land use and other economic pressures on agriculture while encouraging the integration of co-utilization practices to support the agricultural economy and green economy in tandem.”

Office of Renewable Energy Siting Executive Director Houtan Moaveni said, “ORES recognizes the value and importance of conserving highly productive agricultural lands in New York State. ORES, in close coordination with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, conducts a thorough assessment of potential significant adverse impacts of major renewable energy facilities to agricultural resources on a case-by-case basis in compliance with its comprehensive set of regulations. We look forward to continued discussions with the Working Group and other stakeholders as we continue to look for pragmatic solutions to balance the need to efficiently advance major renewable energy facilities while also protecting farmland and farmers.”

Rory M. Christian, Chair and CEO, New York State Public Service Commission said, “The Commission recognizes the importance of collaboration between the agriculture and clean energy sectors as a critical part of the State’s overall climate and greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy. The Commission will continue to work with our sister agencies and this Working Group in the development of programs and policies to advance renewable energy development in a way that minimizes adverse impacts on agricultural lands and operations in New York State.”

About the Farmland Protection Working Group

The New York State FPWG was created as a result of Chapter 55 of the Laws of 2021. The goal of the FPWG is to consider and recommend strategies to the State on the siting process of major renewable energy facilities and to minimize the impact of siting on productive agricultural soils on working farms.

The FPWG is comprised of key stakeholders from across New York State. Members represented are comprised of agencies, authorities, county agricultural and farmland protection boards (AFPB), farmers, and municipal representatives from all levels of government. Additionally, the FPWG included advisory member participants to gain further insight into industry and agricultural resource considerations surrounding the siting or renewable energy facilities.

Find out more at agriculture.ny.gov/land-and-water/farmland-protection-working-group.