10 July 2023- Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) today introduced legislation to prohibit large-scale solar project developments on prime Pennsylvania farmland.
Senate Bill 798 would prohibit development on land considered class one or class two by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service. USDA considers these classes the best for farming and crop production.
“In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of solar companies seeking to lease prime agricultural land for the purpose of constructing large solar facilities,” Mastriano said. “Once the panels are installed, the landscape of the land is drastically altered and unlikely to be able to be used again for adequate farming after the lease ends. Nearby property values also can be affected by large-scale developments, as some large solar farms create eyesores for the neighboring community.”
Mastriano’s bill also would create a new type of state tax credit program unavailable in any other state that would provide incentives for solar companies to develop on alternate sites.
“Pennsylvania has an abundance of brownfields – or old industrial sites – and abandoned strip mine land, capped landfills, warehouse roof tops and surface parking lots,” Mastriano said. “These sites are not suitable for most types of development, but could be ideal for the growing solar industry.”
The largest farmer advocacy groups in the state, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the Pennsylvania State Grange, indicated this year they are supportive of policies that protect prime farmland from large-scale solar developments.
“Preserving our prime farmland for agriculture use is paramount to ensure food security in our commonwealth is stable for generations to come,” Mastriano said. “I believe we can balance the expansion of solar energy and protect our precious prime farmland at the same time. Senate Bill 798 accomplishes both of those goals.”
Senate Bill 798 has been referred to the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.