Michigan Farmer: Democrats are working to save their farms by protecting property rights

“You know, I didn’t think I’d live the day to thank a Democrat for protecting my property rights.” Montcalm farmer Dick Farnsworth on what other Michigan farmers are saying after Democrats passed clean energy bills

In last week’s Left of Lansing episode (which you can hear below or by clicking here), Montcalm farmer Dick Farnsworth talked about how Michigan Democrats are working to save family farms by allowing farmers to take part in large renewable energy projects.

It’s all part of the package of clean energy bills that Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law near the end of 2023, in which the state will reach a clean energy standard by 2040.

One important way for the state to reach that goal is by allowing farmers to participate in allowing their lands to be used for clean energy projects, such as wind and solar.

According to the chair of the Michigan Public Service Commissioner Dan Scripps, we’ll need to use around 209,000 acres of land for wind and solar developments. However, as Scripps reminded everyone in Bridge Michigan, “But in context, it represents about 0.55 percent of Michigan’s total area.”

To become successful at achieving such a goal, Michigan Democrats passed a bill taking the power out of local governments, and into the hands of the MPSC, to give the green light to large renewable energy plans.

This means Michigan is one of 13 states in the country that will now control siting decisions for clean energy projects, which is an important step towards building a towards the future. Additionally, municipalities will benefit economically if the MPSC ok’s a project. Those of us living in Gratiot County have witnessed how those benefits improved our infrastructure.

Democrats passed this measure because some local governments are stopping these projects from happening, and are crippling the wind and solar movement from happening across the state. Not only that, but they’re leaving family farmers out the dry.

Farmers, like Farnsworth, understand how climate change is negatively affecting the agriculture industry across the state, and they also understand dollars and sense. In order keep their land, some farmers are jumping-aboard plans to lease or sell their land to renewable energy developers.

It’s their land. They have the right to join in such projects, especially projects designed to combat climate change, diversify our state’s economic portfolio, create jobs, push our energy generation plans to a cleaner and more reliable future, and to help save some family farms.

But as stated in our discussion, there’s an anti-renewable energy group, led by a Lenawee County commissioner named Kevin Martis, and this group goes by the name of Citizens for Local Choice.

Citizens for Local Choice is currently working on gathering signatures for a ballot proposal which would repeal the law, and place the power back into extreme local governments to reject these much-needed large energy projects.

And this effort has some deep pockets.

This group tries to present itself as a grassroots organization, but as I stated in the episode thanks to a fantastic article by Planet Detroit’s Brian Allnutt, Citizens for Local Choice has big money and corporate financial-backing:

But according to the (Energy) policy institute report, what Martis has framed as a grassroots effort has received messaging help from the Marketing Resource Group, a public relations firm that has represented the Wolverine Pipeline Company for decades. Wolverine is jointly controlled by Mobil Pipe Line Company, Sunoco Pipeline L.P. and others.

Martis is a senior policy fellow at the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, previously known as the American Tradition Institute, which has received backing from coal companies. One former fellow at ATI, John Droz Jr., worked with the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on a nationwide campaign to fight wind projects.

In 2012, Martis went to a national coordinating meeting for anti-wind activists and climate change deniers from fossil fuel industry-backed groups. Martis said in a meeting document that his goals were repealing Michigan’s renewable energy portfolio standard and seeking funding for lobbying efforts in Lansing. 

Michigan Democrats and Gov. Whitmer are demonstrating through smart policy how they don’t actually say they support family farmers, but they actually do support family famers.

As Farnsworth told me during the episode, a farmer told him after a state senate committee hearing last year:

“You know, I didn’t think I’d live the day to thank a Democrat for protecting my property rights.”

And he says this has been a theme with other farmers since Democrats began pushing for these bills.

So, just remember that when people, like the anti-clean energy and anti-farmer property rights Kevin Martis, and his fossil fuel-backed Citizens for Local Control group, tell you they’re for the little guy, they aren’t.

They hope voters won’t understand who’s really backing their campaign to destroy family farms and Michigan’s environment if and when they get their chance to put a repeal of the law on the November ballot.

But you know what they’re about, and it’s not us, or the health of this state’s economic and environmental future.


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