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June 1, 2022

New York State Farmland Protection Working Group Releases Interim Report

The intersection of solar power and agricultural land is often discussed during the entitlements and siting process for solar projects—especially in many of New York State’s agrarian municipalities. On May 25, 2022, New York State’s Farmland Protection Working Group (FPWG) released its interim report on successfully integrating renewable energy sources into the state’s “working landscapes.” The interim report is the FPWG’s first publication and the result of stakeholder meetings held across the state over the past year and half. 

The FPWG was created by the state’s 2021 budget bill and is a direct result of the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The group’s goal is to consider and recommend strategies to the state on the siting process of major renewable energy facilities and the impact of siting on productive agricultural soils on working farms. FPWG members are comprised of state agencies, authorities, county agricultural and farmland protection boards, farmers, and municipal representatives from all levels of government.

The interim report identifies recommendations the FPWG believes require further study and development prior to state implementation. These recommendations include:

o    Initiating a study assessing all economic pressures impacting New York State’s agricultural economy and land use.
o    Exploring options to disburse Agricultural Mitigation Payments to assist local efforts.
o    Encouraging environmental, habitat, and ecosystem services studies of operating solar projects, with a focus on grassland bird and threatened and endangered species benefits and impacts.
o    Incentivizing developers and landowners to work together to have productive farming operations and successful renewable energy projects within the same communities. 
o    Creating a state-level working lands management plan.
o    Updating NYSERDA’s model solar energy local law to enhance the treatment of and provide options to address agricultural issues.

The FPWG will hold meetings on the interim report’s recommendations prior to releasing its final report later this year. Interested parties can find information on future FPWG meetings on the FPWG website

Attorneys in Barclay Damon’s Land Use & Zoning Practice Area will continue to monitor developments regarding the FPWG’s meetings and future recommendations and are available to assist developers as they navigate this changing landscape. 

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Corey Auerbach, Land Use & Zoning Practice Area co-chair, at cauerbach@barclaydamon.com; Ari Goldberg, associate, at agoldberg@barclaydamon.com; Dan Krzykowski, associate at dkrzykowski@barclaydamon.com; or another member of the firm’s Land Use & Zoning Practice Area.
 

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