The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is applauding a Pennsylvania General Fund Budget agreed to by the state legislature and signed by Governor Tom Wolf that includes an historic investment of millions of dollars to reduce pollution in Commonwealth rivers and streams.
The $45.2 billion General Fund budget for fiscal year 2022-23 contains a new Clean Streams Fund (CSF). The CSF includes a $220 million comprehensive funding package to address the top sources of pollution to local rivers and streams. About $154 million, or 70 percent of the CSF, is dedicated toward a new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP).
More than 90 percent of the Commonwealth’s remaining pollution reductions must come from agriculture. Increased investments in regenerative agriculture strategies in Pennsylvania are good for farm productivity and keeping soil and nitrogen on the land instead of running into local waters.
The CSF will also invest in reducing the impacts of polluted runoff from urban areas, cleaning up acid mine drainage, restoring abandoned mine land across the state, and helping plant more trees along streams and streets.
ACAP is a vital cost-share program that will provide county conservation districts additional resources to help farmers design and implement conservation practices.
Also included in the budget is funding for a program formerly called Growing Greener III to address additional environmental problems. These funds will also put agricultural practices on the ground to reduce polluted runoff.
Commenting on the significant clean water investments in the new budget, Bill Chain, CBF Interim Director and Senior Agriculture Program Manager in Pennsylvania said:
“Not since the days of the Ridge Administration and the first Growing Greener legislation in 1999, has Pennsylvania’s Governor and General Assembly made such monumental investments to restore and protect the waters that flow from farms, fields, and forests into our local rivers and streams, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.
“Funding for the new Agriculture Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP) will go a long way toward accelerating conservation practices that keep valuable nutrients and topsoil on the farm and out of local streams. ACAP is designed to fund conservation efforts where they are needed most by ranking and providing resources to counties based on farm activity.
“Pennsylvania farmers have shown they are willing to invest their time, land, and limited funds to clean and protect local rivers and streams. The landmark investments in this budget will give them added financial and technical resources to reduce polluted runoff, increase farm sustainability, and get the Commonwealth back on track toward meeting its clean water commitments.
“CBF especially thanks State Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) and State Representative Johnathan Hershey (R-Juniata) for championing bipartisan legislation to create the Clean Streams Fund and ACAP.
“CBF is also proud to have joined the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, and State Conservation Commission in creating ACAP. We also appreciate all Pennsylvanians who spoke up for local clean water and helped get these measures across the finish line.
“CBF is also delighted that new funding will be going to the Keystone Tree Restricted Account so that more trees can be planted to help clean up our local waters.
“The Commonwealth has a lot of work to do if it is to achieve its Clean Water Blueprint. That legislators and the Governor provided significant and sustainable investments in this budget is vital to our health, economic well-being, and quality of life.”