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A01472
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
SENATE BILL
No.
465
Session of
2021
INTRODUCED BY YAW, ARGALL, J. WARD, MARTIN, STEFANO, AUMENT,
SCHWANK AND COMITTA, MARCH 22, 2021
REFERRED TO AGRICULTURE AND RURAL AFFAIRS, MARCH 22, 2021
AN ACT
Providing for the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program
and imposing powers and duties on the State Conservation
Commission.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Short title.
This act shall be known and may be cited as the Agricultural
Conservation Assistance Program Act.
Section 2. Definitions.
The following words and phrases when used in this act shall
have the meanings given to them in this section unless the
context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Agricultural erosion and sedimentation control plan." A
site-specific plan identifying BMPs to minimize accelerated
erosion and sedimentation from agricultural runoff required by
25 Pa. Code Ch. 102 (relating to erosion and sediment control).
"Agricultural operation." The management and use of farming
resources for production of crops, livestock or poultry.
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"Agriculturally impaired stream miles." Stream miles that
are designated impaired due to the identified source being
agriculture as defined by the most recent Pennsylvania
Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report by the
Department of Environmental Protection.
"Animal concentration areas." The following:
(1) Barnyards, feedlots, loafing areas, exercise lots or
other similar animal confinement areas that will not maintain
a growing crop or where deposited manure nitrogen is in
excess of crop needs.
(2) The term does not include:
(i) Areas managed as pastures or other cropland.
(ii) Pasture access ways, if they do not cause
direct flow of nutrients to surface water or groundwater.
"Best management practice" or "BMP." A practice or
combination of practices determined by the commission or United
States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation
Service to be effective and practical, considering
technological, economic and institutional factors, to manage
nutrients and sediment to protect surface water and groundwater.
"Commission." The State Conservation Commission.
"Conservation district." A county conservation district
established under the act of May 15, 1945 (P.L.547, No.217),
known as the Conservation District Law.
"Conservation plan." A plan that identifies conservation
practices and includes site-specific BMPs for agricultural
plowing or tilling activities and animal heavy-use areas.
"Cropland acres." The acres of land used to produce adapted
crops for harvest, which includes both cultivated and
noncultivated crops and areas managed for forage production that
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are harvested by livestock, or a combination of livestock and
mechanical harvesting.
"Erosion." The natural process by which the surface of the
land is worn away by water, wind or chemical action.
"Livestock." Animals raised, stabled, fed or maintained on
an agricultural operation with the purpose of generating income
or providing work, recreation or transportation. The term does
not include aquatic species.
"Manure management plan." A plan developed and implemented
in accordance with 25 Pa. Code Ch. 91 (relating to general
provisions).
"Nutrient." A substance or recognized plant nutrient,
element or compound which is used or sold for its plant
nutritive content or its claimed nutritive value. The term
includes, but is not limited to, livestock and poultry manures,
compost as fertilizer, commercially manufactured chemical
fertilizers, biosolids or combinations thereof.
"Nutrient management plan." A written site-specific plan
which incorporates BMPs to manage the use of plant nutrients for
crop production and water quality protection consistent with the
criteria established in 3 Pa.C.S. ยงยง 504 (relating to powers and
duties of commission) and 506 (relating to nutrient management
plans).
"Poultry." Birds raised, fed or maintained on an
agricultural operation with the purpose of generating income.
"Program." The Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program
established under section 4(a).
"Sediment." Soils or other erodible materials transported by
storm water as a product of erosion.
"Surface waters." Perennial and intermittent streams,
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rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, wetlands, springs, natural
seeps and estuaries. The term does not include water at
facilities approved for wastewater treatment such as wastewater
treatment impoundments, cooling water ponds and constructed
wetlands used as part of a wastewater treatment process.
"Technical assistance." Advice, technical expertise,
information, training and tools provided to a landowner,
commission, conservation district or others regarding program
implementation, including, but not limited to, the proper
planning, design and installation of best management practices.
"Watershed implementation plan." A plan created to achieve
water quality improvement goals within a watershed of this
Commonwealth, including, but not limited to, Chesapeake Bay
Watershed implementation plans, county action plans or other
watershed-based restoration and implementation plans.
Section 3. Statement of purpose.
The purpose of this act is to establish a program to provide
financial and technical assistance for the implementation of
best management practices on agricultural operations.
Section 4. Agriculture Conservation Assistance Program.
(a) Establishment.--The Agriculture Conservation Assistance
Program is established within the commission.
(b) Sources of funding.--Funding for the program may be
provided through any of the following:
(1) Money appropriated for purposes of the program.
(2) Federal money appropriated or authorized for
purposes of the program.
(3) Money received from another governmental agency
through an interagency agreement or memorandum of
understanding.
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(4) A gift or other contribution from a public or
private source.
(5) Return on money dedicated for the program.
(c) Administration expenses.--The commission may dedicate up
to 4% of the funds allocated for expenses incurred in
administration of the program.
Section 5. Powers and duties of commission.
(a) General rule.--The commission shall:
(1) Adopt performance standards for:
(i) Administration and oversight of the program.
(ii) Best management practices to be implemented and
receive funding under the program.
(2) Provide a system of program evaluation and quality
control.
(3) Annually assess the program and report the
assessment to the following:
(i) The chairperson and minority chairperson of the
Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee of the Senate.
(ii) The chairperson and minority chairperson of the
Environmental Resources and Energy Committee of the
Senate.
(iii) The chairperson and minority chairperson of
the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee of the House
of Representatives.
(iv) The chairperson and minority chairperson of the
Environmental Resources and Energy Committee of the House
of Representatives.
(4) Develop a training, education and technical
assistance program for technicians, engineers and other
individuals performing work under the program.
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(5) Create a system for collecting and reporting of
collected data on funded practices to governmental agencies,
in a manner consistent with criteria established under
Federal and State laws.
(b) Delegation of powers and duties.--In performance of its
powers and duties, the commission may delegate to The
Pennsylvania State University or other entity determined
appropriate by the commission to execute specific administrative
tasks and activities. Up to 4% of the funds provided under
section 4(b) may be committed by the commission to compensate
the entities performing the administrative tasks and activities.
Section 6. Apportionment criteria.
(a) General rule.--The commission shall apportion the funds
under section 4(b) to participating conservation districts based
on written apportionment criteria developed by the commission to
establish priorities based on preventing nutrient and sediment
pollution. The apportionment criteria shall consider:
(1) Agriculturally impaired stream miles.
(2) The number of cropland acres.
(3) The number of farms.
(4) The number of livestock and poultry.
(5) Other criteria as established by the commission.
(b) Unused funds.--Any apportioned funds that are not used
in any fiscal year may roll over for the following fiscal year.
Any unused apportioned funds after two years shall be
reapportioned to participating conservation districts in the
following year, consistent with the apportionment criteria
prescribed under subsection (a).
Section 7. Powers and duties of participating conservation
districts.
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(a) General rule.--Each conservation district participating
in the program shall manage and administer funds apportioned by
the commission in a manner consistent with this act and the
guidelines established by the commission. Each participating
conservation district shall enter into an agreement with the
commission to establish the administrative responsibilities and
activities to be performed by the conservation district.
(b) Use of funds.--Funds apportioned to a participating
conservation district shall be used for:
(1) Approving and providing financial assistance to
landowners and farmers to the person who received approval
for the project to install and implement BMPs, consistent
with the criteria for approval of projects provided under
section 10.
(2) Costs for technical training and education and
technical assistance in administration of projects approved
by the conservation district., including technical assistance
provided by third parties in accordance with the provisions
of section 5(a)(4) of this act.
(3) Establishment of procedures for submission and
approval of applications for financial assistance for BMPs
that minimize, to the extent feasible, procedural tasks and
obligations for applicants.
(4) Adoption of written criteria for ranking of
applications for financial assistance and determination of
proposed projects to be given priority.
(5) Entering into written agreements with recipients of
approved funding.
(6) Administration and procedures to ensure recipients
of financial assistance timely complete projects in a manner
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that meets established design and construction standards.
(7) Adoption of procedures to ensure that recipients of
the approved funding will fully comply with requirements for
future maintenance activities established under the terms of
agreement.
(8) Development of procedures to ensure proper
performance of agreements executed under the program.
(c) Administration.--A participating district may dedicate
up to 12% of the annual amount apportioned by the commission
under section 6 for expenses incurred in administration of the
program.
Section 8. Advisory committee.
(a) General rule.--Within a conservation district, a
committee may be appointed by the conservation district board to
advise the program and identify local priorities and
opportunities to complement other programs.
(b) Members.--The committee shall include at a minimum one
staff member of the conservation district and one local
representative of the United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service and may include up to
three other local representatives who are knowledgeable of
agricultural operations and conservation.
Section 9. Applications and certifications.
(a) Application process.--A person may apply to its
applicable delegated conservation district or the commission for
an eligible project under the program. The conservation district
shall prescribe the In counties with a participating
conservation district, a person may apply to the person's
applicable delegated conservation district for an eligible
project under the program. In counties without a participating
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conservation district, a person may apply directly to the
commission for an eligible project under the program. The
conservation district and commission shall prescribe their
respective form and manner of the application. The application,
at a minimum, shall include:
(1) The location of the project.
(2) The description of the project, including the
planned BMPs.
(3) If applicable, the amount and sources of funding
available for the project.
(4) The total cost of the project.
(5) Any other information as required by the
conservation district or commission, as applicable.
(6) Relevance of the project to the development,
improvement or implementation of the applicant's manure or
nutrient management plan, conservation plan or erosion and
sedimentation plan.
(b) Review of applications.--The conservation district or
commission, as applicable, shall review complete applications
based upon the criteria established under section 10 on an
ongoing basis and in the order received. Within 90 days of
receipt of a complete application, unless extenuating
circumstances prevent the conservation district or commission
from doing so, the conservation district or commission, as
applicable, shall notify the applicant of:
(1) Whether the project is approved for funding under
the program.
(2) The total amount of funds approved for the project.
(3) The amount of each type of funding approved for the
project.
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(c) Notice of completion and certification.--Upon completion
of a project funded under this program, the person who received
the approval for the project shall notify the conservation
district or commission, as applicable, of the completion of the
project and shall submit all documents to certify the
completion.
(d) Inspection.--Projects funded under this program may be
subject to inspection by the commission, conservation district
or their designated agent.
(e) Distribution of funds.--The funds shall be distributed
upon certification and verification that the funded project has
been completed and design and construction standards have been
met.
Section 10. Criteria for evaluation of applications.
In approving applications for eligible projects under the
program, the applicable delegated conservation district or
commission shall give priority to complete applications based
upon the following criteria:
(1) The project meets the goals of any applicable
watershed implementation plan.
(2) If applicable to the agricultural operation, the
applicant has a conservation plan or agricultural erosion and
sediment control plan and a manure management plan or
nutrient management plan. Development of such plans shall be
included in the application if not yet developed prior to the
application.
(3) The project implements best management practices
included in a conservation plan, agricultural erosion and
sediment control plan, manure management plan or nutrient
management plan. For purposes of this paragraph, the
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conservation district or commission shall give priority to
projects that implement best management practices for control
of nitrogen or phosphorus.
(4) An agricultural operation with an animal
concentration area shall have implemented best management
practices necessary to abate storm water runoff, loss of
sediment, loss of nutrients and runoff of other pollutants
from the animal concentration area, or the implementation of
such best management practices shall be included in an
application for funds.
(5) Proximity to surface waters, public drinking water
sources or karst geology with underground drainage systems or
open sinkholes.
(6) The project meets the design and construction
standards established by the commission. If standards do not
exist for a best management practice approved by the
commission, the commission may establish or approve design,
construction and certification standards for such a best
management practice.
(7) Any other criteria considered by the conservation
district, as applicable, and approved by the commission.
Section 11. Liability for failure of performance.
(a) Liability.--A person receiving funds under an approved
project who fails to adequately perform any term of the
agreement executed for the project shall be liable for repayment
of money provided to the recipient related to adequate
performance of the agreement term.
(b) Cause of action.--The commission or conservation
district may initiate any legal action in law or equity to
compel adequate performance of a project agreement or recoup
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funds provided under an approved project for which the recipient
is liable for repayment under subsection (a).
(c) Redistribution of funds received by the commission.--Any
funds repaid to the commission as a result of failure of
performance of a project agreement may be provided to the
conservation district that was party to that project agreement
for use in other project agreements.
Section 12. Effective date.
This act shall take effect in 60 days.
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