By Kevin Daley
26th Senate District
Since the Michigan Legislature reconvened in Lansing for its fall session, Senate Democrats have been discussing a series of environmental bills to dramatically shift the state’s energy policy — their version of a Green New Deal.
It isn’t hard to see that these bills would cause lasting harm to our state and move us in the wrong direction. Businesses would be disincentivized from entering Michigan under the weight of overburdensome government regulations, and many jobs would be lost in a rush to abandon proven fuels for a new, unreliable energy grid.
Of course, the costs for these measures would be paid for by struggling families, seniors and local business in the form of higher taxes and increased energy costs. In fact, proponents of this package have admitted during committee hearings that implementing these radical new policies would be more costly for Michiganders.
These higher energy costs combined with the rising prices of groceries, gas, and housing — not to mention the almost $2 billion in payroll and income tax increases also being promoted by Lansing Democrats — would make life more unaffordable for many already struggling to make ends meet across our state.
My colleagues and I have done what we can to oppose these measures, and we will continue fighting for our constituents.
I am especially concerned with Senate Bill 277, which recently passed the Senate despite my no vote. This bill would amend the state’s Farmland Preservation Act — more commonly known as PA 116 — to allow enrolled farmers to rent their farmland for the use of solar panels while remaining in the program.
This legislation is completely antithetical to the intended purpose of PA 116. It is essential we prevent our viable farmland from being taken over by solar panels or any other type of industry.
Agriculture has been a fundamental part of our state for generations. It is not only important for providing food, but it’s deeply ingrained in the culture and traditions of our state. I oppose any attempt to compromise that.
Farming is one of our state’s critical economic drivers, substantially contributing to our state’s economy each year as food and fiber is produced across an estimated 10 million acres of farmland.
Michigan agriculture contributes more than $104.7 billion annually to our state’s economy, second in diversity only to California, according to the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
MDARD also reports that Michigan’s food and agriculture systems dramatically contribute to the state’s workforce — approximately 805,000 jobs or about 17% of the state’s employment.
It is just too risky to sacrifice our vital and valuable farmland in exchange for still-emerging energy technologies that could destroy so much of it.
Estimates suggest that by the year 2040, 2.5 million acres of productive farmland will be lost to solar panels across the country. In Michigan, it is estimated that if the Democrats were to reach their goals of a solar dependent future, it would require 2.4% of Michigan’s total land area.
One creative solution to this problem would be to encourage panels to be placed in cities, where land has become vacant to urban sprawl and lost industries, instead they are targeting valuable farmland.
At the end of the day, Michiganders simply cannot afford such radical shifts in energy policy. We should pursue an “all-of-the-above” approach to our energy needs, allowing for affordable, reliable energy — like natural gas and nuclear power — to help as we transition to cleaner, renewable resources.
It is my hope that Democrats might slow down and work in a bipartisan manner on the best solutions to our future energy challenges. I will do what I can to resist more radical measures and work to ensure Michigan maintains the proud agricultural heritage that we have worked so hard to build.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 517-373-1777 or by email at SenKDaley@ senate.michigan.gov.
Sen. Kevin Daley, R-Lum, represents Michigan’s 26th Senate District. This op-ed appeared in the Oct. 14, 2023 edition of The Country Press.