Senate Bill 724

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Bill would replace cost-effective conservation practices with expensive technology that addresses fewer pollution sources at a higher cost.

On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, Pennsylvania's Senate Majority Policy Committee held a hearing on legislation that would make it harder for farmers to put scientifically proven conservation practices on their farms.

If passed, this bill would take funding away from cost-effective agricultural conservation practices in favor of expensive, less effective, corporate-backed manure treatment technologies that address fewer pollution sources at a higher cost. It would divert funding from the state's resource-limited clean water programs, jeopardizing family farmers' ability to  implement necessary water quality improvement practices on their property.

Conservation practices—like stream buffer plantings, fencing cattle out of waterways, and planting cover crops—are some of the most cost-effective, common-sense solutions for preventing and reducing pollution to our streams. These practices keep nutrients and top soil on the land rather than polluting our streams and rivers. But Senate Bill 724 threatens these vital clean water tools, replacing them with manure treatment, which is costly, capital-intensive, less effective, and is not competitive in current nutrient credit trading markets.

Here's what you need to know about Senate Bill 724 and how it threatens clean water restoration:

1) It is neither cost-effective nor affordable:

  • The bill siphons millions of taxpayer dollars away from the State's resource-strapped conservation programs and diverts them to a handful of corporate entities to help them pay off state debts.
  • The annual operating costs of manure treatment technology would otherwise pay for thousands of proven, on-the-ground conservation practices that reduce more pollution.
    • For example, $8 million invested in Senate Bill 724 programs would fund approximately
      • 114,285 acres of cover crops,
      • 3,655 new acres of forested stream buffers, plus three years of maintenance.
      • Both of these practices would remove more pollutants from waterways than manure treatment technologies.

2) It puts funding for farmers at risk:

  • Family farmers need existing conservation funding to help them get into compliance with existing state laws and regulations and install on-the-ground and cost-effective conservation practices on their properties. Farmers would see no benefit from this legislation.

3) It creates new government bureaucracy:

  • Senate Bill 724 adds new programs and responsibilities to already stretched PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staff without providing any new staff or resources to manage the work load.

4) Manure is not the only problem:

  • These technologies do not reduce sediment, the leading cause of impairment to the approximately 19,000 miles of Commonwealth streams listed as impaired.
  • Manure treatment technologies only effectively address nitrogen, unlike more efficient practices that address a wider range of pollutants and provide a range of other environmental benefits such as soil health improvements, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration.

If you would like to stay informed about this bill and others that impact Pennsylvania's waters, please join CBF's Action Network.

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