Understanding agriculture – solar

Published 12:22 pm Saturday, September 24, 2016

To the Editor:
Today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food and fiber compared with 1950. Careful stewardship by farmers has resulted in a nearly 50 percent decline in erosion of cropland by wind and water since 1982. Agriculture and forestry industries by far remain Virginia’s largest industry and employer.
These two industries annually contribute approximately $55 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy and employ approximately 350,000 individuals.
Over the next 50 years, the demand for food is expected to increase two-fold to meet the needs for a growing population. As residential and industrial development acquires more open and productive agricultural lands, farmers will be challenged finding sufficient, available and arable land for producing the necessary food to meet this increasing demand.
The topic of solar farms potentially entering our county and constructed onto prime farmland has divided the citizens of Southampton. As with past highly controversial matters, it boils down to “those that will gain and those that will lose.” What side do you feel you are on?
We can continue to educate and argue on the mechanics of solar. Much is to be learned. Is it important to know if solar is more or less expensive than natural gas? Should we be concerned how much land owners are compensated for their property? Is it our business at this point to understand how the land owner will dispose of abandoned fields of solar panels? How many acres in the county will be used for such projects? How will the ultimate loss of family farming operations affect the economy of Southampton County?
With so many unanswered questions looming in our minds, is it not prudent for our county leaders to take their time in coming to a conclusion?
The Southampton County Farm Bureau, at their annual membership meeting, passed a resolution that says: “We support a 12-month moratorium to further study and evaluate the positive and/or negative effects of solar energy projects.”
While I personally believe green energy such as wind and solar will be in our future, I will never believe that productive farm land that feeds our families should be taken to achieve this.

Gary Cross