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Officials expand amount of Michigan farmland where solar arrays can be built

solar panels
David Goehring
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Gary McDowell, announced on Monday that land enrolled in the Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program can be used for commercial solar arrays.

The policy change includes a provision to make sure the land is returned to a state that allows for agriculture production after the panels and other equipment are removed.

“This administrative decision will not result in a loss of useable farmland,” said McDowell in a press release. “The change ensures that Michigan’s farmland is preserved so we can continue to feed our communities while also balancing the need to develop renewable energy sources. This is an exciting new opportunity for Michigan farmers to diversify while they continue to face challenging circumstances.”

Officials say 3.4 million acres of farmland are enrolled in the land preservation program.

"In general, there are a lot of farmers who see this as just another crop that they would like to be able to harvest," said Laura Sherman, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council. “So it ends up keeping farmland in the program, allowing farmers to have a new revenue stream, which is really valuable with today's crop prices, and we're generating more clean energy in Michigan on that farmland.”

As part of the Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program, farmers can sign a development rights agreement with the state, and receive tax incentives from the program to use their land for agricultural purposes for at least 10 years.