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Bill would convert prime ag land to solar

Legislation would allow landowners to exit Williamson Act contracts.

Farm Press Staff

April 26, 2024

1 Min Read
California Capitol dome
California Capitol dome.Tim Hearden

A bill in the California Legislature would make it easier for farmers without ready access to water to exit their Williamson Act contracts without penalty, which farm advocates fear could lead to large swaths of solar panels in the Central Valley.

The Williamson Act provides property tax relief for farmers and owners of open space in exchange for a 10-year agreement not to develop it or convert it to another use.

Assembly Bill 2528 by Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, would allow owners to cancel their contracts without paying the mandated fees of 12.5% of land values if they lack sufficient water.

Backers say the bill would ensure that California meets its climate goals, protects groundwater, and improves air quality by increasing the availability of land for renewable energy projects, according to an Assembly bill analysis.

Opponents, led by the California Farm Bureau, warn the proposed law could accelerate the loss of prime farmland and reduce food supply. They add the law may tempt economically stressed farmland owners to exit their contracts, leading to large areas of land being repurposed for solar or other renewable energy.

The bill recently passed the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy and is now in the lower chamber’s Agriculture Committee.

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