Re: "A fresh kind of Jersey farm," Wednesday:
It is upsetting to read that somehow, the inevitable fate of actively farmed, prime agricultural land is to turn it into either a housing development or, now, an industrial use producing electricity from solar panels. Another bit of spinning the justification of the oversized solar project is the notion that New Jersey is "one of the most densely populated places on earth," so let's discontinue the farms!
Be real. Salem County is a leading farming area in New Jersey's $1.1 billion farming sector. Our residents, despite a crushing recession, voted to approve a $400 million bond referendum in November to further invest in preserving open space.
Renewable, clean energy as an alternative to fossil-fuel dependence? Sure, farmers are on board with that. But why not encourage 10-acre solar projects as an accessory to 50-acre farms and support nearby community power demand? Perhaps we may wish to keep those existing large Salem County farms intact for the future, if the produce industry, for example, shifts away from California and toward "locally grown."
We await the local vetting of the Atlantic Green project in Upper Pittsgrove Township, from both the agricultural impact and zoning impact perspectives. In the interim, let's realize that there are both pros and cons to a project of this enormous magnitude and fully analyze its consequences to agriculture, renewable energy generation, and government-supported economic-development policies.
Peter J. Furey
New Jersey Farm Bureau