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Is solar really the best alternative to agriculture?

Tim Hearden WFP-hearden-solar-panels.JPG
The enterprise is growing seemingly as fast as almonds once did.

A long-held tactic of war has been to cut the enemy's supply lines. Reduce or eliminate the other side's ability to restock, resupply and regroup and victory is a matter of time.

California public policy is doing the same thing to the United States without firing a shot. Bloomberg has a poignant opinion piece that illustrates this, along with a concerning premise that needs to be aired out.

The article cites the decision of a California farmer to remove 400 acres of almonds and instead plant vegetation that cannot be sold but might allow him to sequester carbon for unproven markets. He's apparently doing this because the inedible vegetation he'll plant requires less water and may someday give him credit for helping the environment.

Some farmers are choosing to lease land to solar farms, an enterprise growing seemingly as fast as almonds once did.

Why are we covering some of the most productive soil on the planet with solar panels? Is this the highest and best use of these Class 1 soils?

Those who argue against our dependence on fossil fuels and green forms of energy like hydroelectricity ignore how the two can meet peak power demands. Solar cannot. Neither can solar be stored and used later.

Those who argue that a growing world population needs to be fed should understand that this does not happen without water or the wise use of farmland. Why must we sacrifice domestic food production for solar? Are there better locations to plant solar panels than over the Central Valley's prime soil?

Drought resilience is important. We must stop over-allocating our water supplies. At the same time we cannot ignore our ability to be agriculturally independent. Yes, our supply of irrigation water is finite. How then do we meet our agricultural demands without backing ourselves into an untenable corner? Surely if we can put a man on the moon and harness the incredible energy of atoms, we can find a solution.

Amanda Little, author of the Bloomberg article, suggests that as farmers "must devise new strategies for their land: what to grow and where to grow it." She suggests that consumers adjust to steeper food inflation "and perhaps a less consistent supply of their favorite foods."

Is that the answer: asking people to agree to fewer and costlier food choices? This should be unnecessary in a world marked by technological advancements and the bandwidth of brainpower within our universities.

Former President John F. Kennedy challenged the U.S. that space exploration was a good thing, and through leadership and drive, we put the first footprints on the moon. Where is the same drive to remain agriculturally self-sufficient within our finite water resources?

Can we reach agreement on the best and highest use of our massive river systems that meets environmental needs while serving the needs of a growing world population?

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