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Calls for More Funding in State Budget for Clean Water Initiatives

Calls for More Funding in State Budget for Clean Water Initiatives

by Danielle Smith, Keystone State News Connection

Pennsylvania’s budget is overdue, having missed its Sunday deadline, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is asking state lawmakers and the governor to ensure it includes dedicated funding for the Agriculture Conservation Assistance Program.

Since its launch in early 2023, the program has completed more than 280 projects statewide to reduce pollution from farming.

Julia Krall, Pennsylvania executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the historic investment made a few years ago needs to continue. She said the program and the Clean Streams Fund behind it protect every Pennsylvanian’s right to clean air and water.

“The Clean Streams Fund helps to fund programs throughout the state that deal with agricultural practices, acid mine drainage, and stormwater runoff,” Krall outlined. “Every single person in the state of Pennsylvania deals with those things around their homes, around their places of work, in their communities.”

Krall pointed out the funding has also enabled conservation groups to develop workforce training programs, fostering a new sector of employment supporting farm conservation. At issue now is where the funding will come from.

Krall pointed out that in the last state budget, the General Assembly used American Rescue Plan funding of $220 million to create the Clean Streams Fund, which helped the State Conservation Commission launch the program in early 2023, but the money is running out.

“Now it’s time for the state to determine how do we make this part of the work that we’re doing to protect the environment here in Pennsylvania and help to support farmers?” Krall asserted. “We know we can’t wait until the funds run out. It’s time for the state to act now to identify a dedicated source of funding so that all of the work that’s been done to create the program doesn’t just go away.”

Krall added the Clean Streams Fund offers the state’s first-ever agricultural cost-share program. It allows farmers working through conservation districts to get funding to implement best management practices on the ground and receive technical assistance.