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A new definition of agriculture

When is a car not a car? When you decide to call it a bicycle. When is a horse not a horse? When you decide to call it a cow. Just because you call something a name that does not properly describe it does not change its reality, but I live in New Jersey where reality is subject to the whim of the morons we elect to represent us.

Thus, I give you a piece of legislation sponsored by State Senator Bob Smith that would redefine wind turbines and solar panels as “agriculture.” And all this time you thought agriculture was about growing crops and raising livestock.

An Associated Press article in the July 1 edition of The New Jersey Farmer, one of my favorite publications, the headline read, “N.J. weighs bill encouraging alternative farm energy.” It would define solar and wind energy generation as an “agricultural activity.”

Now, I grant you some savvy farmers have installed solar panels to generate electricity to run their farms, but to suggest that covering acre after acre of preserved farmland with solar panels and wind turbines is a truly bad idea. In fact, it’s so bad that the bill offers those who would do this protection “from nuisance complaints from neighbors, similar to protections farmers have from complaints about the smell of manure, for instance.”

If you don’t like the smell of manure, it’s probably not a good idea to build your home near a farm, something that people who think food magically appears on the shelves of supermarkets, were unaware of when they decided to retire to the bucolic areas of the state.

“Despite New Jersey being the most densely populated state, it is a leader in farm preservation, with more than 18 percent of its farmland preserved.” This was one of the few good ideas the legislature enacted. It has cost the state $680 million and another $358 million from local government and charities to ensure that our little paradise is not entirely paved over or turned into wall-to-wall strip malls and housing developments.

I am not alone in thinking it is a bad idea. Alison Mitchell, a policy director with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation points out that “farm preservation is meant to save agriculture and farmland—not spur new construction on preserved land.” You think?

The bill has cleared a N.J. Senate committee and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate. It has yet to have received assembly consideration. New Jersey is a state in which its entire Congressional delegation and Governor remains unalterably opposed to offshore exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas, but apparently covering farmland with solar panels and wind turbines is a good thing.

Imagine the joy of going to the shore and enjoying one of our many beaches and then driving home past miles and miles of wind turbines or solar panels, some of which are actually producing a small measure of power if the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. The rest of the time they would just be a giant eyesore.

And then imagine that they are “agriculture” and not some demented politician’s idea of what farming and ranching really should be.

Here’s what everyone should worry about. Laws like this get picked up and enacted by other States.

By Alan Caruba

Warning Signs

11 July 2008