Wind/solar and "prime farmland" in Minnesota


Staff member
Apr 16, 2023
In Minnesota, there's disagreement right now between solar developers and agricultural trade groups about whether solar should be exempted from the “prime farmland rule," which prohibits large power plants from using more than a half-acre of "prime" (i.e., high quality soil) land. It looks like Minnesota's best sites for renewable developments have already been taken and now solar advocacy groups are lobbying that getting rid of the rule is necessary to ensure future availability of suitable locations. The Minnesota Farm Bureau, on the other hand, is concerned that doing away with rule will put farmers in direct competition with solar developers over the purchase of prime land, which will in turn make buying land more difficult and expensive for young and emerging farmers.

I think this situation illustrates the very real hurdles that exist for permitting reform at all levels of government. As long as there are stakeholders who benefit from current rules that are impeding infrastructure improvements - e.g., like agricultural interests in Minnesota's case - it's going to make any prospect of streamlining permitting requirements difficult.
Minnesota, United States
This really brings up the question of how solar panels are taking up too much of our land. We need to configure a better way for solar panels to not require such a big area in order to charge, but that's something for scientists to figure out.

As for the permit, I'm on the side of the farmers!! What's going to happen when we block out the light to the land by the solar panels? Probably the same thing that happens in big cities where pollution is rampant because plant life isn't growing.
In summary, as Minnesota continues to pursue the development of wind and solar energy, it must do so while thoughtfully considering the potential impact on prime farmland. This requires a focus on sustainable land use practices and inclusive decision-making processes that involve all relevant stakeholders. By striking a balance between renewable energy development and preserving prime farmland, Minnesota can achieve a more sustainable future.
The debate in Minnesota over exempting solar from the "prime farmland rule" underscores the complex trade-offs in renewable energy development. While it's essential to promote clean energy, it's equally important to protect prime agricultural land, especially for aspiring farmers. Striking a balance between renewable energy goals and agricultural sustainability is crucial. Policymakers must carefully consider the long-term implications, ensuring that land remains accessible and affordable for young farmers while also fostering renewable energy growth through innovative approaches that don't compromise essential resources.