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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: July 13, 2020 08:07 PM
From: Senator Gene Yaw
To: All Senate members
Subject: Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program
Many Pennsylvania farmers have already performed effective and state-of-the-art on-farm conservation measures to reduce pollution impacts on local creeks and streams. 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.  Agriculture is also looked to for significant reductions to meet pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay and other major watersheds in the Commonwealth.

To meet the challenges, I will be introducing legislation creating a sister program to the recently passed Conservation Excellence Grant Program (part of the PA Farm Bill) to establish an Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program.

While the Conservation Excellence Grant Program is more specific to Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program will provide for local conservation districts throughout the Commonwealth to directly receive and manage funding for agricultural conservation projects determined by local officials to significantly improve local water quality. The local on-farm conservation measures implemented through this program will ultimately have a positive impact on the Chesapeake Bay and other downstream waters, as well.

Furthermore, agricultural practices are some of the most cost-effective ways to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution, and they have the double-benefit of improving soil health, nutrient efficiency, and the long-term viability of farm operations.

This legislation is modeled after the successful Dirt and Gravel Roads program, administered by the State Conservation Commission. Funding is apportioned to local conservation districts based on a formula that considers relative volumes of dirt roads and impaired streams in each district. The Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program would apply similar criteria in driving targeted dollars to areas with the highest need for improvement. Districts would work with participating farmers and landowners to determine the best management practices that will work best for their area.

This legislation was developed by a collaborative effort of governmental and non-governmental representatives, including the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Given the challenges of meeting a 2025 deadline to have all practices in place to meet the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, now is the time for Pennsylvania to enact legislation that will provide a roadmap for meeting those goals.
Please join me in cosponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as SB1272