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President Trump signed into law the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill. Aside from being a critical piece of legislation for farming subsidies and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Farm Bill is the largest source of conservation funding in the federal government.
What started as two very different versions of the Farm Bill in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the final Farm Bill passed last week in Congress provided no cuts, and even some modest increases, to conservation funding.
Unlike the previous House version of the Farm Bill, the final legislation did not contain any harmful policy riders, including provisions undermining bedrock environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. The final Farm Bill is also without an attack on our national forests and a weakened Forestry Title, which would have made it easier for industry and polluters to do business without being held accountable and expressly make environmental considerations for their work. Environmental and conservation advocates made the key difference here.
As a part of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, the Regional Conservation Partnerships Program’s (RCPP) mandatory funding was increased from $100 million to $300 million annually, and Critical Conservation Areas, like the Chesapeake Bay watershed, will see a significant boost in funding for projects proposed by farmers and landowners in the watershed.
We offer sincere thanks to Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). As a result of his work in the Senate, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Improvement Act of 2018, S.2978, and the Chesapeake Bay Enhancements Act of 2017, S.2139, made it into the final Farm Bill. CREP is a critical program for getting forest riparian buffers planted in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which is a substantial part of Pennsylvania’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). This provision requires that 8.6 million acres of CREP land be enrolled through CREP agreements and other continuous enrollment categories.
Further, this bill maintains robust funding for agricultural conservation easements across the Commonwealth and goes a long way to protect and restore clean water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and all of Pennsylvania. PennFuture and clean water partners worked closely with Senator Casey and his staff to advocate for his CREP provisions and we are grateful to see this crucial part included in the final language signed into law Thursday. We also thank Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA-5) for his leadership in ensuring a final Farm Bill that is strong in conservation, clean water, and sustainable agriculture through the entire Conference Committee process.
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 signed Thursday will substantially aid Pennsylvania’s farmers and landowners in meeting clean water goals and will improve conservation efforts to protect water quality throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. From Pine Creek to the Pequea, from the Loyalsock to the Conococheague, the impact of this Farm Bill will be felt throughout Pennsylvania and our land and water will be better for it.
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