Pennsylvania is a water-rich state with over 86,000 miles of streams. However, a recent assessment by the Department of Environmental Protection shows that nearly one-third of these waterways are not meeting clean water standards. The number one cause of stream impairment in Pennsylvania comes from agricultural runoff.
Fortunately, the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on Monday unanimously passed a bill that would create the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program to help farmers install conservation practices that improve and protect our rivers and streams. Senate Bill 465 would significantly improve the water quality impacted by nutrient pollution in Pennsylvania.
This is the next common-sense step to help farmers with their share of nutrient reduction by implementing some of the most cost-effective ways to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution.
This legislation should be supported because it protects waterways from the leading source of impairment across the Commonwealth. Senate Bill 465:
- Expands upon the Conservation Excellence Grant Program, a program from the PA Farm Bill;
- Is modeled after a successful statewide program, the Dirt, Gravel, and Low Volume Road Program, which addresses improvements to waterways, has a dedicated funding source, and focuses targeted dollars to areas with the greatest need, instead of a one-size fits all approach;
- Provides flexibility and places decision-making power at the local level where counties and farmers can make decisions based on local need and benefit;
- Can provide up to 100 percent of a project’s cost, which can leverage other private and state and federal funding sources; and,
- Allows County Conservation Districts, the State Conservation Commission, and Penn State or similar institutions to keep a small percentage of allocated funds for technical assistance and administrative costs.
It is time for Pennsylvania to implement real solutions to clean up our local streams, creeks, and rivers. The statewide Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program will not only improve our local waterways, but it will drive funding to Pennsylvania’s farmers to improve farming operations, in some cases reduce costs and improve long-term viability.
Please contact your State Senator and ask them to support Senate Bill 465 today!