I recently traveled to St. Paul talking to my legislators as a representative of Minnesota Farm Bureau. I am a strong proponent that we need to stay in contact with our representatives. Is there a problem with that? Most would say not, but . . .

Are We Talking to the Choir?

We are talking to the choir. Because they represent Greater Minnesota, they know and understand our concerns and issues. I truly believe we need to do a better job at connecting with legislators that do not understand rural Minnesota.

During one of our visits, I casually asked one of my representatives if they ever sat down and had coffee with someone on the other side of the aisle. By the response and expression, I don’t think they expected that question. The answer was no.

That is a problem and something that needs to be addressed.

We talked about the main topic areas that MN Farm Bureau gave us which are important, but I had one more issue I wanted to talk about.

What’s Up With the Solar Panel Push?

The prior day to Day on the Hill, my mother-in-law received a letter from a company that wants to put solar panels on her farm. It is a piece of land directly across the road from where I live. A piece of land that we have helped farm for well over 40 years. And . . . it’s a very good piece of land and one of our most productive.

Minnesota’s Clean EnerGy Bill

This company wants to put solar panels on it. Why are they inquiring? Because our Minnesota Legislature has enacted a Clean Energy bill that will force Minnesota into 100 percent clean energy by 2040. This is resulting in the need for a significant increase on renewable energy.Don’t get me wrong, I am not against renewable energy. I am against the idea of being forced into that arena. So in order to meet the goal, our state needs more solar panels and windmills. The forecast is the state will lose 55,000 acres of farmland.

When I initially heard 55,000 acres, I was thinking, “Oh, they will install the solar panels on marginal land.”


They want and need PRIME farmland. And guess what? Many landowners will take them up on it because they will pay $1300 per year per acre when the going rate for rent is $300-$375 acre. What do you think this is going to do to farmers who rent land to put food on our plates? And I am sure there will be other unintended consequences that i am not aware of today.

What is the Answer?

Honestly, I don’t have an answer. I believe in private property rights. But here is an example of ramifications of such crazy legislation. And you know what? Our state legislators do not understand rural Minnesota, because they can’t even sit down and have a cup of coffee.

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  1. Most farmland in Minnesota, as in Iowa, is not used to grow food for the table. It is used to grow ethanol and feed. Solar is a better way to use the land than growing corn for ethanol. A reduction in typical ag production will result in cleaner water. Depending on what is planted on the ground below the solar panels, grazing can occur. Most conservatives like the free market. If the solar company pays more, so be it.

    1. A by product of ethanol production is feed for animals which go on the table. The idea of grazing under solar panels is something to consider but as of now sheep are mostly mentioned when trying to convince the grazing option. Here in Ohio our farm could not exist on the sheep market. Taking prime farmland for solar is a bad idea. In ohio the projection of farmland conversion in the next 20 years if the momentum stays as it is now is 500,000 acres which includes low and how density housing, commercial and solar. I’d like to see companies such as Amazon that is touting their green energy surge to place solar on their massive building rooftops. The $1300 per acre Solar offers farmers changes communities, and make it very difficult for farmers who want to farm to afford the rental amounts IF they can find land to rent. Too much is not known about decommissioning and disposal of panels at the end of their life. It’s a bad idea. Find another way to capture the suns energy than taking prime farmland-the best soil in the world. NO FARMS NO FOOD.

  2. Wanda,
    I read and enjoy your blog very much! Thank you for helping us stay connected to what’s important for farmers in MN. Have you heard of Lightstar Renewables LLC? I just heard Lucy Bullock-Sieger talking about what they’re trying to do for agrovoltaics on the Factor This podcast. She gave several examples like Jack’s Farm in CO for how this company is working with commercial farms to incorporate solar. It seems like a win/win where farmers keep farming but also get $$ for contributing to solar installations. I’d be curious if you find this believable or not.

  3. I think every new building, commercial and residential, should be outfitted with solar at the utility’s expense. All energy produced should first go to the building with any excess to the grid. Sheep don’t work for me because I don’t like the taste of lamb. Unless they are sheep for wool. I’m ignorant enough to not know if that would be the same sheep. My comment was primarily aimed at the ethanol industry. I think it is bad for the economy in whole (we all know it is good for corn producers) and bad for the environment. Yes, tail pipe emissions are better than petroleum. I’m talking about the marginal acres put into production, the over fertilization that ends up in our waters, the misguided attempt to pipe the co2, etc.

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