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Wolf Administration Investments Promote Agriculture Conservation, Strengthen Pennsylvania’s Commitment to Chesapeake Bay Watershed

04/13/2022

Gap, PA – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding was joined today by conservation partners at Welsh Vista Farms in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County to highlight Wolf Administration investments facilitating on-farm and community conservation management. The Conservation Excellence Grant (CEG) program has invested more than $4 million in 68 conservation projects since 2019, strengthening community-based conservation efforts across six counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

"Farmers are environmental stewards who are deeply connected to the land," said Redding. "The Conservation Excellence Grant program is designed to support farmers in their pursuits to strengthen on-farm conservation practices. We recognize that conservation projects can come at a cost, which is why strategic investments like CEG are so important. The CEG program is empowering farmers to pursue conservation, and in return, it is safeguarding natural resources for generations to come."

Established under the 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Bill, the Conservation Excellence Grant (CEG) program is administered by the State Conservation Commission in partnership with County Conservation Districts to provide financial and technical support to implement best management practices on agricultural operations in high-priority areas throughout the commonwealth. It offers farmers financial options through a bundle of grants, loans, and tax credits to implement best management practices such as cover-cropping, riparian buffers, streambank restoration, nutrient management plans, and more. Eligible projects are reimbursed for costs associated with project engineering and planning, installation, equipment, and post-construction inspection.

Lancaster County Conservation District has committed more than $1.6 million in CEG funds to 31 conservation projects across Lancaster County.

"The Conservation Excellence Grant is a critical invest in Lancaster agriculture," said Chris Thompson, Lancaster County Conservation District Manager. "It allows us to leverage a legacy of sustainable farming and cleaner streams, creeks, and rivers."

 

Salisbury Township is unique in its public-private partnership model to deliver the CEG program and its financial bundling options. The township partners with Lancaster County Conservation District, Lancaster Farmland Trust (LFT), Team Ag Consulting, Stroud Water Research Center, and Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to educate residence about the importance of conservation practices and the financial and technical assistance available through the CEG program. 

"Lancaster Farmland Trust has spent decades investing in our agricultural communities and building trusted relationships with farmers" said Jeff Swinehart, LFT President and CEO. "The success of the projects we are celebrating today relies heavily on these genuine relationships. LFT has done the critical work of addressing farmers' concerns and guiding them through the implementation of conservation practices. Our unique connection with the agricultural community, and our commitment to collaborate with local partners, allowed us to connect farmers with critical funding sources like the CEG program. When farmers feel understood, and funding is made available, these projects succeed and spark more engagement throughout our community."

"Best Management Practices resulting from this partnership have improved our farmer's sustainability, improved water quality, and contributed to the Lancaster County CAP goals," said Gordon Hoover, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors at Salisbury Township and Welsh Vista Farms owner. "The success of the partnership also generated a total stream improvement project of the White Horse Run. Welsh Vista Farms is installing a riparian buffer as part of this stream improvement."

Redding noted Gov. Tom Wolf's $1.7 billion plan to help Pennsylvania recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan designates $450 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to support conservation, recreation, and preservation efforts across the commonwealth, benefitting programs like CEG and the state's leading farmland preservation program.

Priority locations for CEG follow the PA Department of Environmental Protection's Chesapeake Bay Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan, prioritizing Lancaster and York as Tier 1 counties.

More information about the Conservation Excellence Grant program, including eligibility and how to apply, is available at agriculture.pa.gov.

Note: Video and photos of the demonstration are available at pacast.com.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Shannon Powers – 717.603.2056, shpowers@pa.gov

 

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