In Ohio, Attacks on Clean Energy Undermine Traditional, Conservative Values

June 7, 2021

Farmer Mike Pullins in the Columbus Dispatch:

For more than 40 years, my wife and I were the proud operators of a family farm in Ohio. I retired from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation after 33 years, and now I watch as my sons partner with us in a significant farming operation of corn, soybeans, raspberries, and peaches.

It’s in our blood.

As a farming family, we believe in protecting our business and diversifying our income. Our farming is our business, our way of life. We love and support our community and we make decisions that are best for our land and business.

By nature, farmers typically keep our heads down and get our work done, but there are times when our rights are in jeopardy and we must speak up.

We believe in certain fundamental rights, one of which is property rights. Those rights are in danger at the Ohio Statehouse.

Senate Bill 52 subjects solar energy to a new layer of uncertainty and government regulation in addition to the robust state permitting process that already exists. But it is also an attempt to infringe on our property rights. The bill gives my local officials or neighbors a vote on what I do with my property.

This is a slippery slope in government overreach to landowner property rights.

Why should Ohio’s legislators be able to tell me how to diversify my farm?

I believe solar energy is just another form of farming. This diversification in our operation assures steady income year after year while our agricultural crops are impacted by weather, market forces, trade and so many other unpredictable events.

In this ongoing debate of renewable energy, what is rarely shared is that solar projects leave the land in a better place than pre-construction – higher organic matter and better tilth.

There is little to no long-term impact on the land. In fact, I have land in the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program, and 30 years of solar farming produces similar results to my participation in that important program.

Out of our 1,400 acres, some we lease, some we operate, some are in CRP and now 100 acres will be in solar production. This is true agriculture diversification. Solar helps to protect my family, my farm and the future for our kids and grandkids. Solar also brings economic strength and stability to my county and Ohio through an increased tax base and jobs.

Farmers work for generations to acquire and pay for a land base large enough to support their families, sometimes needing a generation to pay off the cost of the additional land. Often, eighty percent or more of a farm family’s assets can be tied to that land.

Down the road, those land assets could provide retirement security or offer a potential inheritance that ensures the farm survives as a successful business for future generations. Now try telling that farmer that local officials or neighbors can determine how he utilizes his most important asset. That is exactly what SB 52 does. Prohibiting a farmer from dedicating a portion of his land to a profitable emerging energy business is equivalent to putting local officials and neighbors in charge of how you can invest your 401(k).

I believe this ill-conceived legislation is an affront to good government, Republican principles, property owners, and all businesses in Ohio.

It seems designed to intimidate energy developers and all businesses to go elsewhere. The message to all businesses is that Ohio can change the rules at any time and your investment is gone. It says Ohio is not a good place to invest.

As a lifelong Republican, I mourn for our party and our state.

Mike Pullins is a farmer and landowner in Champaign County. 

One Response to “In Ohio, Attacks on Clean Energy Undermine Traditional, Conservative Values”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    Interesting dilemma Peter’s posed here.

    Reminds me of when 3 other students and I set up a recycling center for the university we attended. We got a proposal to collaborate with a local guy who was starting a recycling business. Our intention was to reduce waste and use the funding for broader enviro-political education, firstly to reduce use and waste of the recyclables. He wasn’t interested because of course that would cut into his business. We decided to go our own way without him; didn’t want to be working against people within the the organization, rather, have people inside working against us.

    The farmer here is on our side in one ongoing fight, but there are lots of red flags in his statement that make it clear he’s mostly on the wrong side, and only selfish interests are making him align here with what’s really in the interests of the country and world—human and non.

    That he and others have (predictably) come around to supporting clean safe renewable energy in certain limited circumstances is good, and a necessary first step toward getting enough RE built. But ask this guy if he accepts the science of climate catastrophe—all of it, even that that says we have to decarbonize by 2030. Ask him if he supports switching all food and fiber production to small-scale low-meat organic permaculture by 2030–by whatever means are necessary. (That’s another crucial climate action, without which we’ll fail.) Ask him and others like him, late-comers to the clean safe renewable energy party (I guess that would be the Green Party) if he supports the huge increase in government power and mandates, regulation and requirements that it will take to avoid cataclysmic climate chaos. The willingness to declare a national/global emergency; use eminent domain to build solar, wind, geothermal, pumped storage, high speed and other rail solutions; tax mbillionaires, fossil fuels, and meat; convince/ encourage/ force farmers to zero out their carbon emissions and then go negative in the next 9 years.

    “Property rights”? Right wing white supremacist misogynist class-war buzzphrase. And opposed to most necessary climate action. Yes, all those words are somewhat simplistic and maybe too harsh but it’s what’s going on in this country now. It’s how that phrase is being used.

    Same with his anti-government stance. The heart of unsustainable conservatism is its atomistic individuality, that defies the connectedness of all life, every part of every system, and all reality. It’s been whipped to a frenzy (Bundy, eg) by self-serving oligarchic corporatists who manipulate rural white men and other susceptible people into supporting the right of rich people, thieves, and corporations (sorry for the redundancy) to steal from everyone and act out their hatred and nihilism.

    The Farm Bureau (it seems to be the same organ mentioned that he was part of) was and is one of the main funders and pushers of climate denying delayalism and other right wing causes.

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