Saturday, April 30, 2022

Lancaster Farming Guest Essay: Growing A Greener Tomorrow

By Russell Redding, PA Secretary Of Agriculture

This guest essay first appeared in Lancaster Farming on April 30, 2022--

On March 4, 1681, William Penn received his royal charter for Pennsylvania. One day later, he proclaimed Pennsylvania would be the “seed of the nation,” employing agricultural and conservation principles to fuel commerce and economic development.
He then wrote the Commonwealth’s first conservation law — and one of the first conservation laws of the 13 colonies — requiring that for every 5 acres of land cleared, 1 acre of trees must be preserved.

The precedent set forth by William Penn more than 300 years ago remains deeply embedded in the Commonwealth’s identity. 

His vision for stewardship and entrepreneurship continues driving us forward, influencing policy and programs that protect our land, water and natural resources.

Earlier this year, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed $450 million of federal American Rescue Plan dollars to fund Growing Greener III, which builds on the legacy of bipartisan Growing Greener I and II legislation, investing in land conservation and preservation, clean water restoration, and community revitalization.  [Read more here.]

For Pennsylvania agriculture, this means additional funding to agriculture conservation programs, including the Conservation Excellence Grant Program and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program.

A few weeks ago, I joined Gordon and Carole Hoover on their farm, Welsh-Vista Farms, in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County, to highlight the progress of the Conservation Excellence Grant Program.  [Read more here.]

As we were joined by the Lancaster County Conservation District, Lancaster Farmland Trust and conservation stakeholders, it was an amazing moment to pause and recognize the township’s innovative and collaborative approach to conservation.

Salisbury Township has created a boots-on-the-ground approach. 

The Lancaster County Conservation District and Gordon Hoover, through his role as both a township supervisor and agricultural outreach coordinator at Lancaster Farmland Trust, meet with farmers on their operations to discuss how conservation practices can be achieved and their potential for long-term environmental and economic success.

The Conservation Excellence Grant Program then assists by helping conservation management decisions become feasible.

It offers farmers financial options through a bundle of grants, loans and tax credits to implement best management practices such as cover cropping, riparian buffers, stream bank restoration, nutrient management plans and more.

Salisbury Township is a great example of how the Conservation Excellence Grant is empowering communities to take ownership of local conservation efforts and needs.

The State Conservation Commission has worked with each county conservation district in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties of Pennsylvania’s Watershed Implementation Program to tailor the application and criteria to meet the needs of local watersheds and on-farm best management practices.

Since 2019, the Conservation Excellence Grant Program has invested more than $4 million in 68 conservation projects, strengthening community-based conservation efforts across six counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. 

The investments proposed through Growing Green III will only strengthen this work.

The Commonwealth’s commitment to conservation is further strengthened through farmland preservation.

Pennsylvania leads the nation in preserved farms. To date, the Commonwealth is home to 6,044 preserved farms, safeguarding more than 611,000 acres for perpetuity. It is an investment in the future of Pennsylvania’s agricultural economy through conservation that ensures food security for a growing population.

It is also a precedent set forth by the people of Pennsylvania. In 1987, the Commonwealth voted to approve a statewide referendum for the sale of bonds to finance the conservation easement purchase program.

Since then, the program has grown immensely, investing nearly $1.7 billion in 58 participating county programs.

But there is still work to be done. More than 1,000 farms remain on county backlog lists waiting to be preserved.

Growing Greener III is designed to help alleviate this backlog by growing farmland preservation investments through the Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program, permanently preserving viable acres of farmland for the next generation.

For more information about the Conservation Excellence Grant Program and Pennsylvania Conservation Easement Purchase Program, go to [the Department of Agriculture’s website] or call 717-783-3167.

Conservation is both environmental and economic; you cannot have one without the other for the long-term success of Pennsylvania farms.

Growing Greener III is intended to grow resources to make conservation an economic and environmentally conscious choice.

It builds upon the principles set forth by William Penn more than 300 years ago, and it is growing a greener tomorrow, ensuring a viable future for generations to come.

[Visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed webpage to learn more about cleaning up rivers and streams in Pennsylvania's portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

[How Clean Is Your Stream?

[Check DEP’s 2022 Water Quality Report to find out how clean streams are near you.]


-- Lancaster Farming Guest Essay: Growing A Greener Tomorrow - By Russell Redding, Secretary, PA Dept. of Agriculture

-- Reminder: Lancaster County Water Week June 3-11 

Related Articles This Week:

-- DEP Now Accepting Applications For $17.9 Million In Growing Greener Plus, Section 319 Water Quality Improvement Grants  

-- Lancaster Clean Water Partners Announced $1.7 Million In Grants For Watershed Restoration Projects; Apply For Next Round Of Grants 

-- DEP Chesapeake Bay Office: Healthy Waters Partnership, Progress Newsletter

-- May 19 Lower Susquehanna Source Water Protection Partnership meeting. SRBC Offices, Harrisburg or via Zoom. 9:00 a.m. to Noon

Related Articles:

-- Two Bipartisan Bills Just Sitting In Senate Waiting To Address Record Number Of Water Quality Impaired Streams Reported In 2022

-- WeConservePA Urges General Assembly, Gov. Wolf To Boost Conservation Investments - There Has Never Been A Better Time

-- Growing Greener Coalition: Action Needed On Bipartisan Growing Greener III Proposals To Address Critical Water Quality, Recreation, Green Infrastructure Needs

-- EPA: State Plan To Clean Up PA's Part Of Chesapeake Bay Watershed Lacks Funding To Meet Water Pollution Reduction Goals

[Posted: April 30, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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