Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh on Monday announced Commissioner of Economic Development Michael Casale was appointed to the New York State Farmland Protection Working Group (FPWG). He was one of 18 members of the FPWG announced by state Agricultural Commissioner Richard Ball.
The goal of the FPWG is to recommend strategies on the siting process of major renewable energy facilities that will minimize the impact on agricultural land.
Wydysh had written the state back in May urging Casale’s appointment to the newly forming group, as Niagara County has seen numerous proposals for industrial wind and solar projects that could gobble up thousands of acres of farmland.
“Sadly, New York state has been ignoring the pleas of local communities like ours about the potential loss of agriculture land in its rush to site these industrial wind and solar projects,” Wydysh said. “This working group is the first time the state appears at least willing to engage on the issue, so we wanted to make sure our community has a voice at that table. I know that Mike Casale will be a strong advocate for us, and hopefully the state will listen to the recommendation of this group.”
The FPWG will have its first meeting in December and must complete its recommendations to the Legislature by April 2022.
“I am very excited and honored to be a part of this working group, because agriculture and agribusiness are a huge part of our local economy,” Casale said. “Not many people know there are 690 farms in Niagara County covering more than 140,000 acres, producing $118.6 million in market value of agricultural products sold. We must make sure we are preserving agriculture land because, once it’s lost for another use, it’s often lost forever.”