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"Hanging Together" for Clean Water in Pennsylvania

We must, indeed, hang together, or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately.” -Benjamin Franklin

The late spring of 2008 may seem, at first glance, to bear no resemblance to the revolutionary summer of 1776, when the great Pennsylvanian Benjamin Franklin spoke those famous words. But, just as those words reminded the American colonists seeking independence from Great Britain of the stakes involved in their fight, they inspired a modern-day partnership formed to meet a less momentous, but still critically important modern-day challenge.

It was then that five vastly different Pennsylvania organizations—the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts (PACD), the Pennsylvania Builders Association, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, and the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association—came together to address the challenges Pennsylvania faced in achieving clean water for its local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay .

Each of these groups had its own unique reason to join this collective effort, which became known as the Pennsylvania Coalition for Clean Water. The one reason they all had in common was the recognition that the five groups would be far more effective cooperating on these issues than they could ever be working apart.

Collaboration is the backbone of the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership. Found in 2018 by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the partnership which now is comprised of over 200 national, regional, state, and local partner agencies, thrives when relationships are forged for a common goal. This collaborative endeavor has yielded major victories across the state towards achieving a healthier Pennsylvania and Chesapeake Bay. The most recent example took place earlier this year, when the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and PACD worked together with state lawmakers to create a fund for farm conservation projects throughout Pennsylvania.

Establishing such a program has been a long-time objective of Pennsylvania’s agricultural community. Pennsylvania farmers have always taken pride in caring for the land that is their legacy and the foundation of all they do. They have invested their own funds to install best management practices (BMPs) that protect the soil and water, while also utilizing government funding programs to the extent that they have been available. However, especially at a time when agricultural operations are facing higher costs for virtually every input they use just to stay in business, Pennsylvania’s farmers need dedicated support to continue this vital work—work that ultimately improves the quality of life for every Pennsylvanian by protecting the waterways we all enjoy and depend upon—and ensures a reliable, safe, and affordable food, fuel and fiber supply in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Assistance Program (ACAP) was created earlier this year to begin to provide that support. An initial commitment of $220 million in federal funds was allocated for the program, with $154 million of that amount going directly to support projects on the ground. Yes, trees can be costly to plant and maintain, but now through ACAP, a unique opportunity exists for farmers to yield a positive return on investment. ACAP is modeled on the state’s successful Dirt and Gravel Road Program, which is administered by the State Conservation Commission, and will fund agricultural conservation projects in every Pennsylvania county. The Commission will do the same for ACAP, with the purpose of distributing funding to county conservation districts based on areas with the greatest need for improvement. Guidelines for the program are expected to be ready in early 2023 for the program’s launch, with all funds to be distributed over the next two years and all projects to be completed by 2026.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is proud of the work that we and our partners, like the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, have done and continue to do for clean water in Pennsylvania. And so much of it has been possible because we and our partners acknowledge and embrace the wisdom of Mr. Franklin’s counsel to “hang together” in the service of our members and indeed, all Pennsylvanians—so that we all might achieve both our singular and shared conservation goals.

Author: Grant R. Gulibon, Environmental Specialist

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau

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