A Pennsylvania Farm Bureau-supported bill that aims to expand funding and technical support to assist with implementing on-farm practices that protect water quality is on its way to being considered by the state Senate.
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy committee voted unanimously to advance Senate Bill 465. The legislation now heads to the full chamber for consideration.
The bill is one of PFB’s top legislative priorities this spring. Pennsylvania Farm Bureau helped developed the legislation along with state Sen. Gene Yaw of Lycoming County, the bill’s prime sponsor; Penn State; and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. PFB led a news conference with Yaw and the foundation in late April to advocate for the measure.
The legislation would expand opportunities for farmers to partner with conservation district staff in their communities on locally focused projects that protect natural resources and improve water quality by creating a new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program.
The proposed ACAP would work similarly to the State Conservation Commission’s Dirt and Gravel Roads program. Funding would be distributed to county conservation districts throughout the commonwealth using a formula that benefits all parts of the state while directing additional resources to areas with the greatest opportunity for improvement. Conservation districts would then partner with farmers and landowners in their communities to complete the conservation projects that make the most sense locally. The bill allows the program’s funding to come from multiple sources, including federal and state dollars and private investment.
The push comes as Pennsylvania faces increased pressure to expand farm conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to meet federally mandated goals to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution by 2025. While Pennsylvania has developed a Watershed Improvement Plan to identify how those goals will be met, additional funding and technical assistance is needed to make it happen.
While all parts of the state would benefit from the ACAP, areas with the greatest need, like the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, would receive additional resources to help with their efforts.