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Lawrence County Farmer Fights for Land Rights, Stands up to Township Ban of Solar Panels on Farms Family Files ACRE Complaint

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North Beaver Township farmer Herm Cvetan seeks to protect his Right to Farm under Pennsylvania Law.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 1, 2022 – New Castle, PA – The Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum (PennCEF) and the PA Land & Liberty Coalition stand in support of Herm Cvetan, a local Lawrence County farmer, who seeks to preserve his “Right to Farm” as defined in Pennsylvania Code and Statute.

Last year, North Beaver Township passed an ordinance banning solar arrays on farms, so long as those solar arrays produce electricity that is transferred to the grid. This ordinance is in violation of the Pennsylvania Right to Farm Law, the Municipalities Planning Code and the Constitution of Pennsylvania, according to Herm Cvetan. Mr. Cvetan filed an ACRE complaint with PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro, to claim his right to farm and preserve his farmland for future generations.

“I own and operate a 200-acre farm in North Beaver Township, Lawrence County. I have proposed to build a photovoltaic (PV) solar system on a portion of my farm while continuing to plant crops in my fields. Solar arrays, like the original wind and water-powered feed grinders (still in use in parts of Pennsylvania), are fueled by the elements. Such agricultural renewable energy use has been the provenance of farmers around the world since the ancient Romans invented the first solar-powered machine and the Dutch perfected windmills in the 1400s.”

“Feed grinders are identified as protected and appropriate for farms, under the Right to Farm Law. Farmers utilize feed grinders not only for themselves but also for their neighbors. That’s why farmers – historically – would bring their corn to the farmer with the water wheel. Solar arrays are no different – they provide electricity for both the farmer and the regional farming community. Selling electricity to the grid improves energy security not just for my farm, but for farms throughout the region. This is larger than just me.”

“I’m not fighting only for my farm and land rights, but for those of my neighbors throughout Western PA. If North Beaver Township can ban solar on my farm, it can ban generating electricity from manure, or geothermal systems as well. The government should get off of the backs of farmers. It’s been hard enough since the pandemic years, and now we are facing a recession. If banning solar is OK, farmers will have no choice but to sell prime farmland to home builders, when hard times take their toll. That is the end of farm country. But solar can save it.”

“I’m proud that a community of landowners and residents in North Beaver Township has my back. I’m not alone, in my desire to develop temporary solar resources here in Western PA. With community investment and support, the future of our region has never looked better.”

An analysis of Pennsylvania law by PennCEF demonstrates that solar is a protected and appropriate technology on farms.

The Right to Farm Law: The Right to Farm Law restricts local governments from prohibiting or limiting appropriate development on farms. It includes a technology section, with feed grinders and refrigerators included as examples of acceptable equipment. Herm Cvetan argues that feed grinders are similar, in the eyes of the law, to solar arrays. Solar arrays and feed grinders share the following: they are both renewable energy machines, the products they produce are used both on-farm and off (when grain and/or electricity is sold on commercial markets), and they are both necessary to diversify a farm’s revenue.

The Municipalities Planning Code (MPC): The MPC highlights the importance of local renewable energy development in its preamble. Additionally:

  • Access to renewable energy is one of the key purposes of zoning (page 47, section 604.)
  • Planning agencies must consider the use and siting of renewable energy sources within a community (page 12, section 209.)
  • Land development ordinances should include provisions to encourage the development of renewable energy sources (page 23, number 6.)
  • Zoning ordinances may not restrict agricultural operations or changes to or expansions of agricultural operations in geographic areas where agriculture has traditionally been present (Page 69).

The Constitution of Pennsylvania: The PA Constitution states the following – “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment” (Section 27). Renewable energy – including solar arrays – ensure clean air while preserving both scenic farmland and our environment.

“Herm Cvetan and his family are committed to excellence, both in agriculture and in solar generation. We are proud to call Herm our friend, and we support his Right to Farm here in Penns Woods,” said PennCEF Executive Director Chad Forcey. 

“As a beacon for rural Appalachian conservatives, the PA Land & Liberty Coalition believes that renewable energy sources, like solar, ought to be an important part of the Commonwealth’s energy portfolio. We have carried this message to Western PA communities since 2020, and it is having a positive impact on public policy” noted PA Land & Liberty Field, Director Justin Mason. “For folks like Herm Cvetan, Land & Liberty is an agrarian resource mechanism, supporting farm development rights for landowners.”

“In 2018, a group of fellow Pennsylvania leaders and I launched the Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum, a group devoted to ‘all of the above’ energy generation that includes new technologies. Our organization recognizes that renewable energy must be a part of building for the future. On my farm, solar panels generate most of the electricity needed for our agricultural operations,” stated John Lehman, a former U.S. Navy Secretary, 9/11 Commission Member, and member of PennCEF’s Leadership Council. 

“Pennsylvania is a national leader in domestically-produced energy exports. Next-generation solar technologies will bring even greater economic expansion to our strong and diverse energy portfolio,” Lehman added.

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About author
Chad Forcey comes to PennCEF with considerable experience in the world of advocacy. Forcey served the Irrigation Association and the PA Landscape and Nursery Association. He was the personal aide to Governor Mark Sweiker during his tenure in Harrisburg. An articulate spokesperson and seasoned writer, he works to educate, advocate, and engage Pennsylvanians to transition to clean energy in ways that bring jobs to the Commonwealth, make sense economically, protect land rights and guard our national security.
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