Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Farm, Conservation Groups Applaud Bipartisan Senate Bill Setting Up Cost-Share Program To Support Clean Water Efforts By Farmers - If Funded

On April 7, farmers and other conservationists applauded
Senate Bill 465 (Yaw-R- Lycoming, Comitta-D-Chester) that will offer financial support that farmers in Pennsylvania want and need in order to keep soil on the land, reduce runoff into local streams, and protect their long-term viability.

 Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), Minority Chair of the Committee, introduced the bipartisan bill that establishes the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP) and would target funding appropriated to the program for local farms through their county conservation districts. 

Also co-sponsoring is Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) and Sen. Judth Schwank (D-Berks), Minority Chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

ACAP would be administered by the State Conservation Commission.

“Agriculture is looked to for significant reductions to meet pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay and other major watersheds in the state,” Sen. Yaw said. “Nevertheless, almost one-third of our Commonwealth’s streams do not meet standards for drinking, fishing or recreation, and agriculture remains one of the largest sources of impairment. To meet the challenges, I have again introduced legislation to establish an Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, and Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center worked jointly to propose the program that would direct funding to conservation districts and provide the needed technical assistance to farms and the flexibility to determine conservation practices specific to local watershed needs.

“Farmers are willing to do the right thing and conservation districts are standing by to help. But both lack the resources. We thank Senator Yaw for an important first step,” said Shannon Gority, CBF Executive Director in Pennsylvania. “Everyone wants agriculture to succeed, and it is long past time that it gets the resources and technical assistance to finish the job. Our economy, health, heritage, and quality of life depend on it.”

“Pennsylvania farmers have a history of making investments in conservation, because they need healthy soil and clean water to run their farms,” said Rick Ebert, President of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. “However, farmers know that there is more that can be done to improve conservation. Senate Bill 465 will help farmers implement those conservation practices that have a proven record of improving local water quality.”

“Agricultural water quality has been a priority issue in Pennsylvania and our college for many years,” said Rick Roush, Dean of the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. “We enjoy long-standing relationships with diverse agricultural and conservation associations that share our passion for this issue. We believe arming Pennsylvania farmers with the latest science-based information, best practices, and technical support in their conservation efforts will reap huge dividends for healthy rivers, but also for farmers in making better use of soil and nutrients.”

The Department of Environmental Protection’s latest report lists 25,400 miles of Pennsylvania waters as being impaired, an increase of 5,500 miles in a four-year period. Agriculture runoff is the source of 5,700 miles of impaired waters.

Farmers in the Keystone State have shown they are willing to invest their time, land, and effort to restore and protect local rivers and streams, but they cannot pay for it all themselves. 

ACAP is the agricultural cost-share program Pennsylvania sorely needs to get the Commonwealth back on track toward meeting its clean water goals.

In ACAP, funding would be prioritized for counties based on factors like the amount of crop acres and livestock near streams impaired by agriculture.

Conservation districts would be required to invest in and approve pollution reduction measures that might include cover crops, streamside trees and more, and devise criteria for which ones will have the most immediate impact on local water quality. 

Districts would work with farmers and landowners to ensure that conservation practices are installed properly and functioning as designed.

The concept of ACAP is modeled after the state’s Dirt and Gravel Road program, in which funding is allocated to conservation districts based on a formula that factors in miles of unpaved road and proximity to high-quality streams. 

It focuses targeted dollars to areas with the greatest need, not through a one-size-fits-all approach. 

The Dirt and Gravel Road program is funded annually through a gas tax and allocated by the State Conservation Commission.

No funds are appropriated for this program in the legislation.

Senate Bill 465 is now in the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.


-- Senators Yaw, Martin, Laughlin Seek $250 Million Clean Water, Environmental Improvement Funding Thru Federal COVID Stimulus Appropriation

-- Senators Gordner, Mensch Seek $500 Million Growing Greener Funding Thru Federal COVID Stimulus Appropriation

-- Don Hopey: State Needs To Prioritize Water Pollution Prevention Programs, Advocacy Report Says 

-- YorkDR: Killing The Chesapeake Bay: Report Says It Will Cost PA $521 Million A Year To Cleanup PA Waters

-- Wildlife, Environmental Groups Unveil New Underfunded and Polluted: Solutions to Fund Clean Water In PA Report April 8 

Related Articles This Week:

-- Senate Committee Meeting Provides Overview Of Chesapeake Bay Restoration Efforts 

-- U.S. Senators From Maryland, Virginia, Delaware Urge EPA To Ensure Pennsylvania's Compliance With Chesapeake Bay Pollution Reduction Standards

-- Chesapeake Bay Program 2019-2020 Bay Barometer Shows An Ecosystem In Mixed Recovery

Related Articles - Chesapeake Bay:

-- DEP Chesapeake Bay Implementation Plan Update: 86% Of Phase 3 Milestones Are On Track

-- New Poll Shows 90% Of PA Voters Want Senate, House Members To Address Environmental, Conservation Priorities, Provide More Funding For Critical Programs

-- Sen. Yaw Bill Creates New Program To Pay For On-Farm Conservation Measures - If Funded; 2 Other Proposals Would Use Federal COVID Relief Monies To Fund Clean Water Projects  

-- Chesapeake Bay Foundation: It Takes A Shared Commitment To Stop Killing The Susquehanna And Local Waters

-- CBF: Pennsylvania's Budget Proposal Does Little To Address Chronic Underfunding For Cleaning Up Water Pollution

-- Chesapeake Bay Commission Recommends Increasing Federal Funding For Chesapeake Bay Watershed Cleanup

-- Funding Flashback 2017: PA Chesapeake Bay Commission Members Spotlight Need For Clean Water Fund In PA

-- Funding Flashback 2020: Senate Environmental Committee Puts Spotlight On Funding Needed To Implement PA Clean Water Plan At Chesapeake Bay Briefing

-- Senate Committee Unanimously Reports Out Bill To Control Overuse Of Fertilizer On Turf March 23

[Posted: April 7, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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