Climate Change Integrators in Michigan

n Michigan, the landscape of land ownership is changing, not because of billionaires like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos but due to companies like Ceres, Hancock Timber and Farmland Fund, and Bowman Family Holdings. These companies, which I refer to as “climate change integrators,” are altering how land is owned and used across our state.

As a centennial farm owner in Lenawee County, my brother and I have seen these changes firsthand. We inherited our farm, and with it, a set of tough decisions about its future.

Owning land isn’t a given; it comes with choices that have significant consequences. The future of our family farms hangs in the balance — some might stay with us, while others might end up sold to the highest bidder.

Many farm owners find themselves considering selling, often breaking large tracts into smaller parcels. This can be a lifeline for young or expanding farmers who want to buy or lease land. However, they face challenges: land and lease prices are rising, and higher property taxes can make it difficult for some to afford their own piece of farmland.

In the last 18 months, our farm has received numerous unsolicited offers from companies eager to buy or lease our land for various energy projects. These companies present themselves with slick marketing and promises of eco-friendly practices.

But once they control the land, their plans can differ drastically from what we imagined. Instead of fields of blooming pollinator flowers, we could see large solar installations, wind turbines, or even battery farms.

Understanding what these “climate change integrators” might do with the land is crucial. They have a range of potential uses in mind, from large-scale farming and biofuel production to carbon storage and renewable natural gas. This makes it essential to consult an experienced lawyer before agreeing to any deals.

As more farmland consolidates into fewer hands, critical questions arise about our future. What will happen to food prices when so much farmland is converted to other uses? How will energy rates and reliability change if these companies don’t fulfill their promises?

Michigan’s new renewable energy standard (P.A. 235) seems to benefit these integrators more than it addresses climate change or protects the environment. The loss of local control over where utility-scale solar and wind projects can be placed only adds to the concerns.

Recently, some environmental groups and political entities have unexpectedly sided with these integrators, allowing private equity and investment funds to take over large swaths of our farmland and energy projects. This shift often overlooks local interests and the well-being of our communities.

As someone deeply rooted in Michigan’s rural areas, I believe in the importance of local control and supporting sustainable farming practices. Our small towns have been in decline for decades, and it’s vital to protect our land and way of life. I encourage voters to support candidates who prioritize local communities and healthy food production over corporate interests and speculative ventures.

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