HARRISBURG, Pa. — Governor Tom Wolf today called for U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to implement a $737 million Chesapeake Bay Resilient Farms Initiative to support Pennsylvania farmers in their desire to take a stand against climate change by implementing on-farm efforts for more sustainable agriculture practices that reduce nitrogen output, improve water quality, and effectively decrease negative impacts of climate change on agriculture.
“Last week, we all saw the devastating and deadly impacts of climate change as Hurricane Ida swept across our nation, leaving it’s mark not only on the hurricane-prone states to the south, but also Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey,” said Wolf. “As we rebuild, we need to rethink how we can all do our part to mitigate against climate change. Pennsylvania agriculture has stepped up to the challenge and has a plan, farmers are waiting to jump into action. We just need support, as was provided to the Mississippi River Basin, to get moving.”
Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding last week signed his support for a proposal by the Chesapeake Bay Commission to the U.S. Department of Agriculture which would create a Chesapeake Bay Resilient Farms Initiative (CRFI) funded at $737 million to support the efforts of the agriculture industry in the six Chesapeake Bay watershed states over the next decade. With the agriculture industry responsible for 80 percent of nitrogen reductions, this program is critical to increasing capacity and making this goal feasible for the industry to accomplish.
“In agriculture, we not only have the responsibility to harvest food to feed the world, but we have the opportunity to harvest carbon and make a real impact on the climate of the world we leave for the next generation,” said Redding. “This plan makes implementing conservation practices realistic for our farmers through voluntary cost-share programs that help us to achieve our co-equal restoration goals.”
Redding signed a joint letter with the agriculture secretaries of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New York that was issued to Vilsack on August 25. The proposed CRFI program is modeled after the USDA-funded Mississippi River Basin Initiative and targets the sub-watersheds – particularly the Susquehanna River – that have the greatest impact on the Chesapeake Bay and offer the most cost-effective solutions. Out of the six watershed states, Pennsylvania faces, by far, the biggest challenge with the Susquehanna River providing half of the Bay’s fresh water. However, with a targeted investment in Lancaster, York, Franklin, Cumberland, Lebanon, Bedford, and Centre counties, Pennsylvania could achieve half of its reduction goals and restore more than 19,000 locally impaired stream miles.
Through the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, Governor Wolf has invested funds from the commonwealth’s budget to support sustainable agriculture practices and assist farmers in achieving their conservation goals. Since signed into law in 2019, Wolf has committed $15 million through the PA Farm Bill’s Conservation Excellence Grant Program and expanded funding for the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection tax credit program.
For more on the Wolf Administration’s support and investments in a sustainable agriculture industry, visit agriculture.pa.gov.
–Shannon Powers, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture