The California Farm Bureau has won approval to pursue its legal fight against solar development on Valley farmland.
A Fresno County Superior Court judge ruled last week that the California Farm Bureau Federation can sue Fresno County for permitting a 90-acre solar plant on agricultural land near Interstate 5.
County attorneys had argued that the farm bureau didn’t have a local connection to the proposed solar project and therefore couldn’t sue.
Judge Donald Black set a hearing for the case for Oct. 19.
The case is the first legal showdown between the agricultural community and the solar industry since a flood of new energy proposals left many in the heavily farmed San Joaquin Valley fearful of a land grab.
“Our state’s farmers and ranchers support renewable energy, but we’d like to see energy-production facilities placed on marginal or less-productive farmland so we can preserve the best soils for growing food,” farm bureau spokeswoman Megan Alpers said.
The project at issue, proposed by Huron-based Westlands Solar Farms, is planned for “prime” farmland, considered the best for agriculture. While it’s not one of the Valley’s biggest projects, it’s one of the first to win release from a state conservation contract.
Last summer, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors agreed to free the project from the Williamson Act, the state law that commits land to farming.
Fearing other projects will be released from farming commitments, California Farm Bureau officials filed suit against the county. They allege the supervisors aren’t meeting Williamson Act terms for contract cancellation.