Cassie Miller, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
December 9, 2023
A new report from researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is highlighting what Pennsylvania farmers stand to lose if Congress revokes funding for certain U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Conservation programs.
The programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), help farmers protect and improve soil health, increase profits and productivity, and clean up public waterways.
Despite the benefits, the programs have been targeted by GOP lawmakers in Congress who want to see funds for nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and climate and conservation programs cut or eliminated entirely from a renewed Farm Bill.
Pennsylvania farmers could stand to lose $256 million if Republicans get their way and funding for the programs are eliminated by Congress, according to the report.
Here’s how that Pennsylvania could lose by program:
- EQIP: $130,902,113.30
- CSP: $40,901,089.75
- ACEP: $5,577,255.54
- RCPP: $78,492,057.86
The report notes that, across the country, “demand persistently exceeds the funds available. In fact, demand has historically been twice what Congress has funded.”
In Pennsylvania, the notion of the growing demand is shared by state agriculture officials, such as state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
“Conservation funding in the Farm Bill is one of those areas that has the most direct, and often longest lasting impacts on farms in the Farm Bill, including the Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program,” Redding said at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees in August.
During the most recent Farm Bill, enacted in 2018, Pennsylvania was allocated more than $167 million for the EQIP and CSP programs, resulting in a significant number of conservation practices being implemented on farms, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
One such example is conservation efforts aimed at reducing agricultural runoff pollution into Chesapeake Bay tributaries that utilize federal conservation funds to assist farmers with costly implementation and improvement costs.
“Pennsylvania farmers will be asked to do more to prevent nutrients from reaching local waterways,” Redding explained. “Several federal programs target conservation and preservation work specifically in the Bay Watershed, resulting in $109.6 million in federal funding to Pennsylvania during the most recent five-year Farm Bill. Our hope is this next Farm Bill will build on that investment by continuing to fund the Chesapeake Bay State’s Partnership Initiative.”
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which represents 28,000 members from small and mid-sized farms across the Commonwealth, did not respond to the Capital-Star’s request for comment on the report’s findings.
Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: email@example.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.