Currently, farmers are presented with a change in climate and growth conditions; the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture addressed this problem resulting in a reward from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Farmland Preservation Program has won a competitive partnership grant of $7.85 million from the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to support climate-smart conservation on Pennsylvania farms.
Pennsylvania’s $12.8 million investment in preserving farms will leverage these federal dollars for farms that implement and measure the impact of practices that address climate change.
“Climate change is presenting serious challenges to the farmers who feed us and feed our economy,” Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding said. “Pennsylvania has invested heavily in protecting farmland from development and making farming practices more sustainable and farms more resilient. We have been creative in multiplying those investments to have an even greater impact on our future food supply and economy. We’re grateful to the USDA for recognizing Pennsylvania’s efforts and we’re proud that our state is a national model of innovative conservation.“
What Will the RCPP Grant Be Used For?
The state grant will fund projects to install climate-smart practices on preserved farms. This aims to meet the specific challenges climate change presents on each farm.
These funds will also support producers interested in transitioning to organic production.
The PA Farm Bill-funded PA Preferred® Organic Program will assist with the organic certification of farms.
The grant was one of 41 regional conservation projects totaling $197 million to match local funds. Farmland preservation funds serve as the matching contribution. Details of the application process for farmers are in development.
“These dollars will be a significant tool for our efforts to improve soil health on preserved farms and reduce the impact of climate change,” said Bureau of Farmland Preservation Director Douglas Wolfgang.
“Regenerative farming practices capture and store carbon from the atmosphere and mitigate the effects of climate change. We hope that the project will provide additional conservation opportunities for preserved farm owners and multiply the good we are doing for Pennsylvania’s future.”
Has Pennsylvania Won An RCPP Grant Before?
Pennsylvania’s longstanding partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service led to its first RCPP grant in 2018. That first $6.3 million grant-funded projects to install conservation practices on preserved farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In the second quarter of 2019-20, invested $10 million to enhance farmland preservation and natural resource protection in the Kittatinny Ridge region of Pennsylvania.
What is Pennsylvania’s Goal for Agriculture?
Landowners who sell their land development rights will preserve their farms, protecting land from future residential, commercial, or industrial development. Pennsylvania partners with county and sometimes local governments and non-profits to purchase development rights, ensuring a future for farming and food security. Farms that agree to additional conservation measures when they sell their development rights may leverage federal funds through the RCPP and USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. These federal funds, in turn, allow the department to preserve farms on the waiting list in the same county and help ensure that farms are sustainable.
In the 2022-23 state budget, the Department of Agriculture invested $220 million in the new Clean Streams Fund. Including $154 million to fund the new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program, supporting farmers in reducing water pollution and improving soil quality, and $22 million to increase funding for the existing Nutrient Management Fund, which supports technical assistance to farms to manage run-off.