Enacting a State-Based Conservation Program for Farmers
As part of legislation called the Clean Streams Fund (CSF), Pennsylvania's state budget invested $220 million of unallocated federal American Rescue Plan funding towards programs that address the top three sources of stream impairment in the state. Seventy percent ($154 million) is dedicated towards establishing a statewide agricultural conservation cost-share program, known as the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP). The program will help the Commonwealth's more than 50,000 family farmers design and implement conservation practices, like forested stream buffers and cover crops, that keep farm soils and nutrients on the land instead of in the water.
CBF worked alongside the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, as well as Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, and others to draft legislation to establish ACAP, which was later incorporated into CSF. This program provides county conservation districts additional resources to help farmers design and defer the costs of implementing conservation practices. Levels of support are based on factors such as the size of the farming community and number of agriculturally impaired streams in each county.
The CSF would also invest in reducing the impacts of polluted runoff from urban areas, cleaning up acid mine drainage, planting trees alongside streams and streets, and helping municipalities reduce polluted stormwater runoff.
CSF resources will be spent over the next several state budgets in accordance with federal guidelines.
Advocating for Sufficient Resources in the State Budget
The state budget represents the priorities of the Commonwealth. For well over a decade, conservation program monies have been diverted and key environmental regulation and conservation and agricultural agencies have lost funding and staff. Routinely, there were numerous legislative efforts to divert resources and underfund conservation and protection agencies via a special state budget process. Some fail but many succeed.
With the recent passage of the 2022-23 state budget, the three resource agencies of the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Department of Agriculture received increases of $13.6 million, $12.9 million, and $51.9 million, respectively. County conservation districts received an additional $6.8 million.
In addition, the state budget allocates $320 million towards various water and sewer projects and $156 million towards parks and recreation infrastructure improvements.
Opposing Legislation That Would Degrade Public Health and the Environment
Pennsylvania's current legislative session ends in December. CBF will continue to fight legislation that threatens to negatively impact Pennsylvania’s environment and public health, like those from the previous session that sought to limit the Department of Environmental Protection’s abilities, thwart efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change, allow polluters to “self-regulate” chemical spills and discharges, hand over permitting authority to private industry, and undermine the ability of state environmental agencies to protect the health, well-being, and quality of life the citizens of Pennsylvania and their environment.