Some think they will stop change if they can only keep utility-scale solar out of Mason County. However, Mason County’s rural economy already underwent a substantial change when tobacco and dairy almost entirely left our area.
Our whole community must now adapt to our new economic reality.
Recent dramatic swings in cattle and feed prices, along with livestock mortality, make operating a profitable grade cow-calf operation a daunting task. Animal waste can infiltrate our groundwater unless carefully managed. Livestock on wet sod eventually leads to soil erosion.
The narrow, erratic margins in corn/soybeans push farmers to plant increasing acreage. All the while, continuous cash grain rotations reduce the topsoil’s organic matter plus accelerating soil erosion. Chemicals applied to row crop fields can contaminate groundwater.
Neither of these alternatives provides a long-term way to replace the taxes once paid by tobacco and dairy. Solar farms can offer a long-term option to replace tobacco and dairy revenues.
If Mason County decides to reject the solar option, we must decide how to support the public services paid for by tobacco and solar.
One option is to cope with lower tax receipts by reducing the level of service we expect from our local tax districts. Much of Appalachia tried this solution as the coal mines left communities. As services declined, fewer families were willing to live there, and everyone’s property values dropped. This leads to an even lower tax base, and the cycle starts to feed on its self.
Another solution is to raise the tax rates on residential and commercial property to replace the taxes agricultural land can no longer pay. As tax rates increase, fewer people opt to locate in the area. As property becomes less desirable, its value declines. When property values fall, even higher tax rates are necessary to maintain servicese, and the cycle starts to feed on its self.
Western KY has developed large-scale hog and chicken confinement operations to produce meat. Does anyone prefer living next to a hog or chicken barn so the community can keep solar out of Mason County?
Some have told me “Do not worry Bill your are old enough that you will die before cash grain washes the majority of our topsoil away, and/or our tax districts run out of money as farmland values drop.”
I think we should all reject that denial approach. We have been able to live in this beautiful community because those who came before us developed the tobacco and dairy industries here. Will we all work together to develop a new enterprise for the future.
If you truly do not want solar, how do you propose we fund public services in the future?
This is the amount of tax revenue solar can generate, how much will your solution contribute?