Agricultural Cost-Share in Pennsylvania

forest buffers separate farm fields Will Parson Chesapeake Bay Program 1171x593

Forest buffers separate farm fields from the West Branch Susquehanna River, providing a highly effective filter that reduces the amount of nutrient and sediment pollution that runs into the Commonwealth's waters.

Photo Credit: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

Passing the ACAP bill is crucial for clean water and healthy soils

Pennsylvania farmers want to help clean up their waterways. They're willing to invest their time, land, and effort. The Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP) would provide a true statewide cost-share program to help them implement practices that keep healthy soils and nutrients on their land and out of waterways.


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Agriculture is an integral part of Pennsylvania's culture, heritage, and economy. It also can serve as a natural filter, soaking up rainfall and runoff before it reaches local creeks. The Commonwealth has over 50,000 family farms—they are stewards of the land. But unlike Maryland and Virginia, Pennsylvania does not have a true statewide cost-share program that can help them apply practices important to keeping both their land and water healthy.

What is ACAP? | How ACAP Would Work | 5 Ways ACAP Will Benefit Pennsylvania | Why ACAP Is Crucial to Achieving Pennsylvania's Blueprint Goals | 5 Ways ACAP Will Benefit Farmers | What Can You Do to Help?

What Is ACAP?

ACAP will help farmers across the state leave a legacy of healthy soils and clean water.

While Pennsylvania has financial assistance programs like REAP and the pilot Conservation Excellence Grant (CEG) Program, as well as USDA NRCS programs funded through the Federal Farm Bill, ACAP is different. Introduced by Pennsylvania Senator Gene Yaw as Senate Bill 465, ACAP, if passed, would establish a state-wide program that would be directed locally by county conservation districts. The program would provide financial resources to farmers to install conservation practices that work best for each farm and technical assistance funding to the conservation district to support farmer requests.

The result: healthy soils, clean water, thriving local economies to name a few—for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians.

How ACAP Would Work

ACAP is modeled after Pennsylvania’s lauded Dirt and Gravel Road Maintenance Program, which is administered by the State Conservation Commission. Similar to that program, ACAP funding would be distributed to county conservation districts based on areas with the greatest need. County conservation districts would work with participating farmers and landowners, or with non-governmental organizations and farm consultants, to help design and implement soil and water conservation practices that will work best for each farm’s unique circumstances. There are no mandated practices in ACAP.

Like their role in the Dirt and Gravel Road Maintenance Program, Penn State and other eligible colleges and universities would provide education, training, and outreach to farmers and participating partners involved in the program.

The legislation is written so that ACAP can be funded by a range of state, federal, or private sources.

This flow chart shows how ACAP sets farmers up for success through use of state, federal, or private funding; coordination with the state conservation commission and Penn State Extension; and assistance from county conservation districts, NGOs, and private business.

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5 Ways ACAP Will Benefit Pennsylvania

  1. Healthier Streams: More than 6,000 miles of Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams are considered impaired from agricultural activities. ACAP means critters like brook trout and the hellbender that rely on cool, clean water to survive will have cleaner, healthier habitat.
  2. Cleaner Drinking Water: Most Pennsylvanians get their drinking water from lakes, rivers, and streams. ACAP will help keep pollutants out of sources of drinking water thus improving quality and reducing treatment costs.
  3. Vibrant Communities: Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s leading economic enterprise. ACAP will help boost local business and jobs, benefiting quality of life in communities across the state.
  4. Charming Countryside: Agriculture is part of Pennsylvania’s culture and heritage. Cleaner, greener farmland means more iconic views sought after by the growing number of agritourists.
  5. A Saved Chesapeake Bay: Agricultural production activities are a leading source of Pennsylvania’s nutrient and topsoil loss degrading the Chesapeake Bay. ACAP will go a long way in helping our community and our neighbors downstream.

Why ACAP Is Crucial to Achieving Pennsylvania's Blueprint Goals

While Pennsylvania has made progress, it remains significantly behind in meeting its clean water commitments under the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint. Agricultural activities are the leading source of nutrient and sediment pollution degrading the Bay and over 6,000 miles of local streams. The financial assistance programs mentioned above have helped, but not enough.

As proposed, ACAP would complement existing programs and be available to farmers across the Commonwealth. But the benefits it provides to those in the Chesapeake Bay watershed would play a significant role in addressing Pennsylvania’s Blueprint commitments.

5 Ways ACAP Will Benefit Farmers

  1. Custom Solutions : County Conservation Districts, Penn State Extension, and others will help you with a plan tailored to your operation.
  2. More Productive Soil: Adopting conservation practices fosters healthy soil that will help sustain plants and animals, break down dead vegetative material, control diseases, and improve soil structure.
  3. Reduced Costs: No-till cultivation, cover crops, and other practices that improve soil health will strengthen nutrient cycling and natural pest resistance, reducing your need for costly fertilizers and pesticides.
  4. Cleaner Water: Healthy soils filter water in wet weather, retain moisture during drought, moderate soil temperature, and keep soils and nutrients from running off your land.
  5. A Lasting Legacy: For many of you, farming is more than livelihood. It’s your culture, your heritage, and your legacy. Passing down a productive operation with healthier soils and cleaner water can be key to the success of future generations.

What Can You Do to Help?

If ACAP is to become a reality, legislators need to hear that Pennsylvanians want the program. They need to hear from you.

See and hear what others have to say about ACAP:

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