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Sorensen Introduces Bill to Expand Opportunities for Farmers

Congressman Eric Sorensen (IL-17), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, along with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01) and Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett (TX-30) introduced the Securing and Understanding Our National Renewable Agriculture Yields (SUNRAY) for Energy Act.  

 

This bill requires the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to identify and make publicly available best practices for implementing solar on agricultural land while preserving crop production. This clarity from USDA gives farmers the tools they need to make the best use of their land without running the risk of losing access to essential USDA programs like crop insurance.   

 

The process of placing solar panels on or near agricultural land is known as agrivoltaics, a growing market for solar energy deployment and for farmers looking to use their land for both energy and agricultural production. 

 

“Farmers across our nation play an important role in creating a sustainable and clean energy future for generations to come,” said Sorensen. “It is Congress’ job to give them the guidance they need to make the best decisions for themselves, their businesses, and their families. My SUNRAY for Energy Act provides producers with the information they need while making sure farmland is used to grow the food, fuel, and fiber that we all rely on.” 

 

“Dual-use solar is a win-win. It helps generate renewable energy while keeping farmland in production. As producers in Maine and across the country begin to adopt agrivoltaics into their operations, we need to better understand best practices and regional differences,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01), a longtime farmer and member of the House Agriculture Committee. “I’m proud to introduce the SUNRAY for Energy Act with Congressman Sorensen to help give farmers more tools to increase productivity and profitability and build a greener future.” 

 

“This week in Texas, the rate of solar power generation reached record high levels, meeting 35% of demand on its own,” said Congresswoman Crockett (TX-30). “With its wide-open plains, Texas is perfectly positioned to lead the nation in solar power production – and lower our power bills in the process. But too often, industrial development came at the cost of productive farmland and rural Americans were left out of the gains of new technologies. With this bill, that changes. I’m proud to join in introducing the SUNRAY for Energy Act to support Texas farmers and identify future sites for solar power production, working hand in hand with farmers. Texas farmers already feed America – they’re ready to power America too!” 

 

“Solar deployment can be an opportunity to strengthen farm viability and keep land in farming, but to do this right will require action, especially from USDA,” said Tim Fink, American Farmland Trust’s Policy Director. “The SUNRAY for Energy Act would empower Natural Resource Conservation Service to provide guidance to states, local governments, and developers on best practices to protect soil health and agricultural productivity on any solar array sited on farmland. It would also advance agrivoltaic projects that pair solar energy generation with agriculture. We applaud Congressman Sorenson for introducing a bill to better enable USDA to advance a smarter solar buildout.” 

 

“The current lack of a federal definition for “agrivoltaic system” presents significant challenges to designing and siting dual use agricultural-solar installations state-by-state and across the country,” said the American Solar Grazing Association. “ASGA agrees with the definition proposed by Congressman Sorensen and applaud its inclusion of animal production, which, when managed appropriately within the context of the photovoltaic system and surrounding ecology, can contribute meaningfully to the health of both systems.” 

 

“Lightstar Renewables strongly commends Representatives Sorensen, Pingree, and Crockett for their visionary leadership for protecting America's farmland and farming families,” said Lightstar Renewables. “Integrating agricultural production and solar on the same land is being deployed across the country and should be the solution developers and local decisionmakers reach for first. The SUNRAY Act provides guidelines for developers with a clear definition of agrivoltaics, and research for best practices. We now have a better choice when siting new energy generation - agrivoltaics.” 

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