On July 1, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation into law providing $6 million in aid to farmers required to install conservation practices over the next year. The aid includes--
-- $2.5 million Conservation Excellence Grant Program-- Senate Bill 634 (Yaw-R-Lycoming)
-- $500,000 in Agriculture Linked Loans for conservation practices-- House Bill 1526 (Irvin-R- Huntingdon)
He also signed House Bill 1516 (Causer-R-Cameron) establishing an Agriculture Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account (House Fiscal Note and summary), including the response to the spotted lanternfly, totalling $4 million.
“In my 20 years of public service, this is the largest investment I’ve ever seen made in Pennsylvania agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
“Thanks to Governor Wolf, this is the beginning of a new era of opportunities for our state’s top industry, and we’re proud to be here to witness it.”
To put this into context, the PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Planning Steering Committee estimated there is a $257 million shortfall per year for the next 6 years in funding to implement a strategy to reach our cleanup obligations by 2025-- $1.467 billion.
And the funding need to help farmers install conservation practices is more than two-thirds of that total-- about $171 million this year alone.
Without the needed funding, Pennsylvania will miss the 2025 nitrogen reduction goal by at least 19 years (2044).
The cost to implement the Clean Water Plan for Lancaster County alone is estimated to be $141 million in start up costs and $50 million in annual costs to support on-farm conservation practices, stream buffer, stormwater management pollution controls and more.
As Harry Campbell, Executive Director of the PA Office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said, “With this budget, our elected leaders have once again failed to show the will, leadership, and commitment it takes to restore and protect Pennsylvania’s waters.”