The Chesapeake Bay Foundation today applauded the introduction of House Bill 1823 by Rep. Michael Sturla (D-Lancaster), a bill requiring all farmers participating in the “Clean and Green” preferential tax assessment program to have a soil erosion control plan in place for their land.
“This is common sense legislation that we strongly support,” said Matthew Ehrhart, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director. “HB 1823 amends “Clean and Green” to match an existing state requirement, one that good farm managers have complied with for decades.”
HB 1823 would require all current and future participants in the Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act, commonly known as the Clean and Green Program, to verify that they have a plan that complies with a long-standing state regulation requiring all landowners who plow or till more than 5,000 square feet to have an agricultural erosion and sediment control plan.
“Soil conservation plans are the ‘blueprint’ for keeping the soil on the farm, where it belongs, and out of local streams and the Bay,” Ehrhart said. “This legislation ensures that as landowners are receiving an important tax benefit, the land is protected for current food production and future generations.”
Erosion control plans have been required since 1972 under the state’s Clean Streams Law, but state officials estimate that as many as half of the state’s agricultural producers don’t have them. Existing participants in Clean and Green would be given four years to develop these plans if they do not have them already.
The Clean and Green Program allows farmland and forest land to be assessed at its “use value” rather than at fair market value. The intent of the program is to encourage landowners to maintain land in farms and forests.
Controlling soil erosion from all land uses is a fundamental strategy for Pennsylvania to comply with federal mandates to clean up local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution are chief causes of water pollution.
Through improved farming practices, Pennsylvania farmers have already reduced nitrogen levels to the Bay by 18 million pounds per year compared to 1985 levels, the biggest reductions from any single source in any state in the Bay watershed. More reductions from agriculture and other sources will be required, however, and HB 1823 will lead to more farmers getting involved, and more pollution reductions being accounted for.