Friday, February 28, 2020

NSAC Blog: Comprehensive Climate And Agriculture Legislation Introduced In U.S. House


The New Deal had its Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) to address the pressing farm issues of its day in a powerful new way, one that became the predecessor of all subsequent federal farm bills.  
This week, Maine farmer and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) to address the most pressing farm issue of our day: climate change.
The bill establishes a set of aggressive but realistic goals for farmers to help mitigate climate change and increase agricultural resilience, starting with the overarching goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. agriculture by no later than 2040. 
The legislation’s substantive programmatic sections are divided into six additional titles – agricultural research, soil health, farmland preservation and viability, pasture-based livestock, on-farm renewable energy, and food waste. 
Each of those titles of the bill also have 2040 goals (and 2030 interim goals) attached to them, such as retaining year round cover on at least 75 percent of cropland acres, eliminating farmland and grassland conversion, increasing crop-livestock integration by at least 100 percent, tripling on-farm renewable energy production, and reducing food waste by 75 percent.
The bill directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop detailed action plans to help attain each of the goals.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and many of its member organizations helped to develop the legislation and have endorsed the bill.  
We applaud Representative Pingree for her vision and leadership in setting the table for the critical legislative phase that must follow if agriculture is to survive and thrive and be part of the solution to the climate crisis.
For further information, please see Representative Pingree’s press release, the emerging list of endorsements, NSAC’s press comment, and the section-by-section summary of the bill.  Some of the extensive press coverage of the bill can be viewed here, here, and here.
For further information, please see Representative Pingree’s press release, the emerging list of endorsements, NSAC’s press comment, and the section-by-section summary of the bill.  Some of the extensive press coverage of the bill can be viewed here, here, and here.
For more information on programs, initiatives, upcoming events and more, visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website.
[Posted: February 28, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

Farmers In Lancaster, York, Franklin, Adams Asked To Document Conservation Practices In New Penn State Survey

By Chuck Gill, Penn State News

If you’re a farm operator in any of four Pennsylvania counties--  Lancaster, York, Franklin and Adams-- you will have a chance to highlight what steps you have taken to protect and enhance water quality in your local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.
Several agricultural and governmental organizations have partnered to develop a survey that asks producers to document conservation practices they have adopted to promote water quality and soil health in the bay watershed.
"Pennsylvania agriculture has done much to improve water quality in our local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay," said Matt Royer, director of the Agriculture and Environment Center in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. "Yet that positive story often is not told. We are giving farmers a chance to tell that story."
The survey follows a successful effort undertaken in 2016, when farmers across Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed were invited to complete a similar survey. Nearly 7,000 did, resulting in many conservation practices reported and credited in Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts. 
Yet even with that successful effort, Royer explained, conservation practices on an estimated 80 percent of Pennsylvania farms in the bay watershed remain unreported. 
In addition, farmers who responded to the 2016 survey will have a chance to report new practices implemented since then, report on annual practices such as nutrient management and cover crops, and report on the continued success of previously reported practices.
This year’s survey focuses on the four highest-priority counties for Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort — Lancaster, York, Franklin and Adams.
The survey is being administered by the Penn State Survey Research Center, which will mail the survey to farmers in these four counties, seeking their participation. 
College of Agricultural Sciences researchers will analyze the responses, and cumulative results will be provided to Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Office to document the practices farmers have adopted to conserve soil and water and protect water quality.
Farmers have the option of filling out the paper version of the survey or completing it online. Participants are asked to submit their responses by Wednesday, April 1.
Ten percent of the participants will be selected randomly for farm visits by Penn State Extension to assess inventory results and help researchers better understand the methods used and challenges encountered when adopting various management practices.
Responses will be completely confidential and never will be associated with a farmer’s name or location, according to Royer, the lead researcher for the survey.
"The results reported to Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Office will be provided in summary form and will not include any names or locations of survey participants," Royer said.
Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, noted that many of the conservation practices that farmers have implemented over the years are not accounted for in tracking the progress made toward meeting priority water quality goals, including cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
"This is especially true where farmers have adopted these practices on their own initiative and by using their own dollars," Roush said. "This survey will allow farmers in the highest priority counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to report conservation practices implemented on their farms so the agricultural community can get the credit it deserves for improving water quality. We also hope it will help us set priorities for research and extension educational programs that can assist producers in identifying and adopting appropriate best management practices."
While this year’s survey targets Lancaster, York, Franklin and Adams counties, future phases of the project will reach out to farmers in other counties of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Royer noted.
The survey was developed collaboratively by Penn State, the PA Farm Bureau, PennAg Industries Association, PA Farmers Union, PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, the Department of Agriculture, the PA State Conservation Commission, the PA Association of Conservation Districts and the Department of Environmental Protection.
[For more information on farm conservation, visit Penn State’s  Agriculture and Environment Center webpage. 
[For more information on how Pennsylvania plans to meet its Chesapeake Bay cleanup obligations, visit DEP’s PA’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan webpage.

(Reprinted from Penn State News.)
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[Posted: February 28, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

Funding For Renewable Energy, Energy Conservation Projects Available From Sustainable Energy Funds

The four sustainable energy funds created as a result of electric competition have a wide assortment of funding available to support the development of sustainable and renewable energy and clean air technologies on both a regional and statewide basis.
To find out all the details contact the funds directly--
-- West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund: The West Penn Fund invests in deployment of sustainable energy technologies that benefit West Penn Power ratepayers in Pennsylvania.  Investments are focused in three broad categories--
     -- Deployment of sustainable and clean energy technologies
     -- Deployment of energy efficiency and conservation technologies
     -- Facilitating economic development, environmental betterment, and public education as they relate to sustainable energy deployment in the WPP service region
-- Met-Ed and Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund:  This fund provides grants, loans, and equity investments to promote projects in the Met-Ed and Penelec service territories:
     -- Development and use of renewable energy and clean energy technologies
     -- Energy conservation and efficiency
     -- Sustainable energy businesses
     -- Projects that improve the environment in the companies’ service territories, as defined by their relationship to the companies’ transmission and distribution facilities.
 -- Sustainable Energy Fund Of Central Eastern PA: The fund serves central and eastern Pennsylvania and provide funding for--
     -- Renewable energy, energy efficiency projects
     -- Educate the public about sustainable energy and provide training for industry professionals
     -- Invest in clean energy programs like C-PACE, Net Zero Office Buildings
-- Sustainable Development - Reinvestment Fund: Offers funding to support energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy and other advanced clean energy technologies.
For more information on these programs, visit the PUC’s Statewide Sustainable Energy Fund Board webpage.
Other Renewable Energy Funding
There are some other renewable energy funding opportunities now open--
March 14-- CFA Alternative & Clean Energy Grants, Loans [also May 14, July 15]
March 14-- CFA Geothermal & Wind Grants, Loans [also May 14, July 15]
March 14-- CFA Solar Energy Grants, Loans [also May 14, July 15]
(Photo: West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund Try Again Homes.)
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[Posted: February 28, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

CFA Accepting Applications For Alternative & Clean Energy, Geothermal, Wind And Solar Energy Projects

The Commonwealth Financing Authority is now accepting applications for several of its renewable and clean energy project funding programs.  The deadline for applications is March 14, May 14 and July 15-- 60 days before the CFA board meeting.
Alternative & Clean Energy
The Alternative and Clean Energy Program provides loans and grants for activities that promote the use, development and construction of alternative and clean energy, compressed natural gas infrastructure and liquefied natural gas fueling stations. 
Energy efficiency and conservation projects are also eligible.
Geothermal & Wind
The Renewable Energy Geothermal and Wind Projects Program provides loans and grants to promote the use of these alternative energy sources.
Loans for geothermal systems or wind energy generation or distribution projects may not exceed $5 million or 50 percent of the total project cost, whichever is less.
Grants for wind energy generation or distribution projects may not exceed $1 million or 30 percent of the total project cost, whichever is less.
Solar Energy
The Solar Energy Program provides loans and grants to promote the use of solar energy.  Eligible projects include facilities to generate, distribute or store solar photovoltaic energy.
[It is strongly recommended anyone applying for these programs contact their House and Senate members for an endorsement of their project.] 
For more information on funding assistance, visit the Commonwealth Financing Authority webpage.
Other Renewable Energy Funding
There are some other renewable energy funding opportunities now open--
(Photo: Solar energy installation at Northampton Community College.)

(Reprinted, for the most part, from the PA Township News.)

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[Posted: February 28, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

PennDOT Announces District 8 Winner Of Student Innovations Litter Challenge From Dauphin County

On February 28, the Department of Transportation announced a team of students from Reach Cyber Charter School in Dauphin County has been selected as the PennDOT District 3 winner for its third Innovations Challenge, this one focused on litter control.
Mentored by Jessica Vernouski, team members include: Audrey Vereshack, Madelyn Vereshack & Elyssia Good
The winning regional team’s innovation was Litter Impact, an app to get users involved in community cleanup in a fun way.
Since last fall, students have been working hard to solve this year’s challenge: Aside from laws, programs and educational campaigns, what cost-effective, innovative solution can be developed in the next five to 10 years to help PennDOT more efficiently, effectively and safely control litter along roadways?
“Last year, PennDOT spent nearly $13 million cleaning up roadside litter across Pennsylvania,” said Acting PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “These dollars could have otherwise been spent on delivering a better transportation network and making Pennsylvania a better state in which to live.”  
Now in its third year, the PennDOT Innovations Challenge invites high school students in grades 9-12 to use their problem-solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges. 
The Innovations Challenge aims to not only help students explore actual transportation challenges that PennDOT is facing, but also open their minds to the very real possibility of working for PennDOT after graduation.
“The Innovations Challenge not only gets students engaged in issues faced by PennDOT, it also introduces them to the many career opportunities available to them with the department,” said District 8 Executive Michael Keiser, P.E. “I congratulate Audrey, Madelyn and Elyssia for their innovative approach and wish them and all of the challenge participants continued success in their future endeavors.”
Other regional winners will be selected as judging continues who will move on to compete in Harrisburg for the state championship.
The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Traffic Safety Services Association and the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful (KPB) organization are providing a combined total award of $3,000 to be divided among the first, second and third place statewide winning teams.
For more information on the competition, visit PennDOT’s 2020 Student Innovation Litter Challenge webpage.  [The deadline for entries has passed.]  Questions about the Challenge should be directed to: DOTInnovations@pa.gov.  
Visit PennDOT’s Roadside Beautiful webpage to learn more about litter prevention and cleanup programs.
Learn more about new litter prevention initiatives at DEP’s Litter Program webpage.
For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful website. Click Here to become a member.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from KPB, Like them on Facebook, Follow on Twitter, Discover them on Pinterest and visit their YouTube Channel.
Also visit the Illegal Dump Free PA website for more ideas on how to clean up communities and keep them clean and KPB’s Electronics Waste website.
Sign up now for the 2020 Pick Up Pennsylvania Initiative and volunteer or set up your own cleanup event from March 1 to May 31.  Questions should be directed to Michelle Dunn at 1-877-772-3673 Ext. 113 or send email to: mdunn@keeppabeautiful.org
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[Posted: February 28, 2020] PA Environment Digest

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