The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) issued the following statement from Pennsylvania Executive Director Julia Krall, in response to Governor Josh Shapiro’s $48.3 billion General Fund budget proposal for fiscal year 2024-25.
As a final budget continues to take shape in the coming months, CBF is specifically calling for funding that could extend the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP), passed by the Pennsylvania legislature and signed by former Governor Tom Wolf in 2022.
The ACAP cost-share is part of the new Clean Streams Fund (CSF), with a comprehensive spending package of $220 million from the federal American Rescue Plan. The CSF dedicated $154 million to ACAP as investments to be passed through conservation districts and authorized conservation partners for local agricultural practices to reduce pollution to local rivers and streams.
The design of the legislation that created ACAP was a collaborative effort between CBF, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, and the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. The CSF and ACAP were introduced by State Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming).
In response to Governor Shapiro’s General Fund budget proposal for fiscal year 2024-25, Ms. Krall said:
“The final General Fund budget that reaches the Governor’s desk needs to include funding that will extend the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP) that is helping family farmers design and install conservation practices that keep soils and nutrients on the farm and out of the water.
“CBF is concerned that ACAP might dissolve if the initial investment of $154 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds through the Clean Streams Fund are spent by the end of 2026 and not replenished. It would be a horrible loss of opportunity and momentum for meeting Pennsylvania’s clean water goals.
“The ACAP cost-share is working. According to the State Conservation Commission in December, 66 conservation districts signed ACAP agreements and roughly $151 million has been committed to the critical work.
“Additional funding in the 2024-25 General Fund budget would extend ACAP and allow it to seamlessly enter a new phase.
“Increased and sustained investments of financial and technical resources in ACAP are essential to help farmers reduce pollution from agriculture. The health, economic wellbeing, and quality of life of all Pennsylvanians depend on it.”