Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today announced that the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission approved the allocation of $3.0 million to be granted to four organizations under the framework of the Conservation Excellence Grant Program. The funds will be used to implement projects that leverage public-private partnerships in the Susquehanna River watershed that will improve water quality in Pennsylvania, directly impacting the Chesapeake Bay. This includes over $1 million in funds each for the Alliance for Chesapeake Bay and Lancaster Farmland Trust to cover a wide variety of projects, including installing conservation practices on 10 preserved farms.
“Pennsylvania farmers know that sustainable practices and environmental stewardship are critical to the future of agriculture here in Pennsylvania and across our nation,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “Our goal to meet and exceed the Chesapeake Bay water quality standards is coequal with the goals that our farmers have in ensuring viable and sustainable farmland. These are generational decisions that our farmers are making today that will ensure a future of healthy soils and clean water for the decades to come.”
The Conservation Excellence Grant Program was created by Act 39 of 2019, with the current funding coming in part through EPA’s Most Effective Basins-infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act Grant Fund. The grants are structured to provide financial and technical assistance for the implementation of best management practices on agricultural operations in areas designated as priority locations by the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s Chesapeake Bay Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan. Pennsylvania counties within the Chesapeake Bay watershed are designated as Tier 1, 2 or 3 counties, and that designation is noted in the below, approved projects.
Following are grant recipients, amounts, and project descriptions:
Centre County Conservation District – Centre County, Tier 3 – Awarded $510,000
This project will provide funding to implement two projects located within priority watersheds in Centre County to achieve water quality and pollution reduction goals in two local watersheds that are directly linked to the waterways leading to the Chesapeake Bay.
Franklin County Conservation District – Franklin County, Tier 2 – Awarded $300,000
Funds provided by the Conservation Excellence Grant will be used to bolster the Restore. Exclude. Vegetate. (R.E.V.) program in Franklin County. The R.E.V. program will offer 100% cost-share to landowners to complete livestock exclusion fencing, off-stream waterers, livestock crossing, vegetated buffers, and private engineering fees (where necessary) on farms located along the Antietam Creek. The Franklin County Conservation District is parenting with the Antietam Watershed Association to monitor the health of the stream and to calculate the impact of the R.E.V. program.
Lancaster Farmland Trust – Lancaster County, Tier 1 – Awarded $1,095,000
This project aims to effectively reduce nitrogen flowing into the Chesapeake Bay through the implementation of agricultural and stream best management practices on 10 preserved farms in the Pequea Creek Watershed. Following the conclusion of each activity, the Lancaster Farmland Trust will provide the Lancaster County Conservation District with new and/or updated conservation plans developed for the participating farms, to further their shared objectives of widespread adoption of agricultural conservation practices, and to document those practices for the purpose of meeting Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay goals.
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay –Lancaster and Snyder Counties, Tier 1 and Tier 3 – Awarded $1,095,000
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is partnering with the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, County Conservation Districts, and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement best management practices on Pennsylvania farms located in Lancaster and Snyder Counties. Through these partnerships, the funding will be allocated to a waiting list of farmers who are interested in implementing practices, such a riparian forest buffers, to achieve cost-effective and timely nitrogen load reductions for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and to improve local water quality.