Trouble is brewing between property owners, counties, and the state’s Farm Bureau as land is turned over to house solar panels. At the heart of the matter are property rights and the violation of the Williamson Act, which is intended to preserve farm land. If a landowner wants to put up solar panels on land protected by the Williamson Act, then permission must be sought from the county, and when Fresno supervisors offered their blessing, the Farm Bureau ended up suing the county.
KQED notes that the Bureau’s legal decision is notable because “The fight places the Farm Bureau, usually a fierce defender of property rights, in the odd position of squaring off against willing property owners over what they should be able to do with their land.”
Farm Bureau officials are worried about the amount of solar projects proposed for a top agricultural county like Fresno and the effect it could have on production and the conservation of prime farmland.
Questions have been raised about whether farming the sun can be considered farming (and therefore not violate the Act), and many farmers have experienced a desire to make decisions for themselves about their land, and have even suggested experimenting with planting crops next to solar panels.
Supervisors believe that solar will allow Fresno to diversify the economic base of the county so it will be less reliant on agriculture.