Pennsylvania Healthy Soils Policy

Related Policy

Pennsylvania Farm Bill Package

Dates:

Passed 2019

Legislation:

The PA Farm Bill is a package of 13 bills and an associated increase in budget allocation to the following soil health related programs:

Specific bills related to soil health in the Farm Bill package: 

Sponsor/s: 

Description:

The Pennsylvania Farm Bill was proposed and championed by Governor Tom Wolf and the Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding and was passed with broad bipartisan support. The Pennsylvania farm economy had plummeted over the past half-decade, with hundreds of farms lost. The PA Farm Bill was created with the intention to make agriculture both financially and environmentally sustainable in the future. 

The PA Farm Bill is a package of 13 separate bills with wide ranging mandates and goals, including creating programs to provide business planning, disaster readiness, research in specialty crops, conservation grants and loans, supporting veteran farmers, funding for dairy producers, small meat processors, and agricultural youth organizations. It also has bills designed to grow opportunities and resources for farmers and producers while removing barriers to entry. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture began the process of developing guidelines for a myriad of programs several months before the PA Farm Bill Package was signed into law. Part of the Farm Bill package involved expanding the already existing programs such as the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) and the Agricultural Security Areas Program. In total, the PA Farm Bill invests $24 million across the various programs. The majority of the funding comes Pennsylvania’s General Fund. REAP provides a tax credit for best management practices and is funded through the Pennsylvania Fiscal Code.

Soil Health Definition:

As defined by the Pennsylvania NRCS, “…  the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans”  

Stated Goals:

  • To better support agriculture in Pennsylvania become more profitable, sustainable, and resilient to ensure its future success
  • To invest in agriculture to increase opportunities for entry, access to resources, and increase innovation 
  • The package has six main areas of interest: 

1) support business development; 

2) strengthen the workforce; 

3) fortify the business climate; 

4) increase processing capability; 

5) invest in organic; 

6) build disaster readiness 

Program Required Measurements:

  • N/A

Tools & Guidance: 

  • N/A

Funding Source/s:

  • The General Fund of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Fiscal Code

Funding Type/s:  

  • Funding comes in the form of grants, loans, education, outreach, and tax credits.

Practices Eligible for Funding: 

  • N/A

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking Process:

  • N/A

State Universities & Researchers: 

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups:

This site is meant to facilitate groups, agencies, and individuals wishing to learn about and advance soil health policy. Organization names are not mentioned here for privacy, interested parties are encouraged to send an email to the state page contact with requests for state-specific information. 

Lessons Learned:

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Resource Enhancement & Protection Program (REAP)

Dates:

July 2007

Legislation:

2007 Act 55 / Senate Bill 97

Sponsor/s: 

Description:

The Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) was created with the intent to financially incentivize agricultural operations to implement conservation practices. It was established through the tax code and is funded is through the fiscal code. 

REAP provides eligible applicants with tax credits for implementing best management practices that will improve productivity while protecting natural resources. Eligible applicants receive state tax credits between 50% and 75% of project costs, dependant on the type of practice implemented. No agricultural operation can receive over $150,000 in credits. The program is administered by the State Conservation Commission and the tax credits are awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Producers seeking to participate in REAP must fill out an application to ensure they meet qualifications, but REAP tax credits are given on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants must be in compliance with Pennsylvania’s Clean Stream Laws and have up to date conservation plans.  

Recipients of the tax credit can use it for up to 15 years to pay PA state income tax or they can sell the tax credits. Funding comes from the fiscal code and the Pennsylvania Farm Bill of 2019 increased its funding cap and lifespan.

Soil Health Definition:

As defined by the Pennsylvania NRCS, “…  the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans”  

Stated Goals:

  • To financially incentivize agricultural operations to implement best management practices that support conservation.
  • To support farm production and financial growth 
  • To protect natural resources, improve water quality, reduce erosion, and reduce pollution  

Program Required Measurements:

  • There are no required measurements that grant applicants or recipients must take. 
  • A NRCS certified conservation planner must verify that the applicant is in compliance with their conservation management plan

Tools & Guidance: 

  • Funding is through the fiscal code – it is not considered an expenditure so it is not included in the General Fund 
  • Fiscal code gives an allocation of $10 million worth of tax credits to REAP but was expanded to $13 million in 2019. 

Funding Type/s:  

  • Reimbursement program through tax credits 

Practices Eligible for Funding: 

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking Process:

State Universities & Researchers: 

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups

Lessons Learned:

  • This tax credit program is managed by a single employee, so it relies on other entities to advertise.  This program might benefit from more structured outreach.
  • Because REAP was expanded in 2019, soil health language and practices may be included for future eligible tax credits

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Agriculture-Linked Investment Program

Date:

Passed 1994 

Reestablished 2019

Legislation:

Sponsor/s: 

Description:

The Pennsylvania Farm Bill re-established the Agriculture-Linked Investment Program as a part of its overall strategy to increase the profitability of farms and agriculture while capitalizing on the co-benefits of utilizing conservation practices. The program was reestablished with the aim of reducing nutrient runoff, improving water quality, preventing soil erosion, and protecting Pennsylvania’s natural resources.  The program was originally established as a means to incentivize farmers to adopt nutrient management plans to prevent water pollution and soil erosion caused by nutrient runoff. The program ran for about 10 years but stopped in 2008 due to de-funding. 

The Agriculture-Linked Investment Program provides low-interest loans for farmers adopting best management practices as part of an approved nutrient management

plan, manure management plan, agricultural erosion, and sedimentation plan, or Federal conservation plan.  No loan can exceed $250,000.

The Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission (SCC) is still in the process of reestablishing the Agriculture-Linked Investment Program, so the details are not yet known. The program is run by the Pennsylvania Treasury Department and the SCC. It is funded through the General Fund and received $500,000 in funding from the PA Farm Bill. 

Soil Health Definition:

As defined by the Pennsylvania NRCS, “…  the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans”  

Stated Goals:

  • To increase the profitability of farms and agriculture by financially incentivizing them to implement conservation practices 
  • To utilize conservation practices in order to reduce nutrient runoff, improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and protect Pennsylvania’s natural resources

Program Required Measurements:

  • To be determined

Tools & Guidance: 

  • To be determined 

Funding Source/s:

  • The General Fund 

Funding Type/s:  

  • Low-interest loans

Practices Eligible for Funding: 

  • Conservation tillage
  • Crop rotation
  • Soil testing
  • Manure testing
  • Diversions
  • Manure storage facilities
  • Stormwater management practices
  • Nutrient application
  • Streambank fencing
  • Riparian buffers
  • Pasture livestock watering systems where stream bank fencing is installed
  • Odor barriers
  • Development of a voluntary nutrient or odor management plan
  • Manure management plans
  • Agricultural erosion and sedimentation plans
  • Federal conservation plans
  • Other practices are still being considered

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking Process:

State Universities & Researchers: 

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups:

Unknown 

Lessons Learned:

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Agricultural Security Areas Program

Dates:

Agricultural Security Law first passed in 1981, last amended in 2013 

Legislation:

Agricultural Security Law (Act of June 30.

1981, P.L. 128, No. 43)(3 P.S. §§ 901-915) at 7 Pa. Code Chapter 138l

Sponsor/s: 

Unknown

Description:

The Agricultural Security Areas Program (ASA) was created with the aim to strengthen farmers rights by protecting their land from condemnation. However, the owners still have a right to change their land use from agriculture. 

ASA protects farmland from non-agricultural uses and protects landowners from local laws and ordinances that might restrict agricultural practices. Farmers must file a  petition to the township supervisors to enter the program and, if accepted, are reevaluated every seven years by the ACA. Eligibility to participate includes having a minimum of 250 acres combined, although it can include non-adjacent farmland of at least 10 acres, or be able to produce $2,000 annually from the sale of agricultural products.  No funding is associated with this program. 

Soil Health Definition:

  • N/A 

Stated Goals:

  • To protect farms and farmland from non-agricultural uses to support farmers 

Program Required Measurements:

  • N/A 

Tools & Guidance: 

  • N/A 

Funding Source/s:

  • N/A 

Funding Type/s:  

  • N/A 

Practices Eligible for Funding: 

  • N/A 

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking Process:

  • A landowner must file a petition, which is submitted to the township supervisors for approval

State Universities & Researchers: 

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups

Unknown 

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Conservation Excellence Grant Program

Date:

June 2019

Legislation:

Senate Bill 634 

Sponsor/s: 

Description:

The Conservation Excellence Grant Program was created as a component of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill Package aimed at alleviating the financial burdens of implementing conservation practices. It is a part of the broader goal to help farmers increase their profitability and thus sustainability in the long term. 

The grant program provides financial incentives and technical assistance for farmers implementing best management practices on their land. The Program bases best management practices as defined by either the PA State Conservation Commission or NRCS.  The grant program will be run by the State Conservation Commission and funded through the General Fund. 

Soil Health Definition:

As defined by the Pennsylvania NRCS, “…  the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans”  

Stated Goals:

  • To increase the profitability of farms by alleviating the financial burdens of implementing conservation practices
  • To utilize conservation practices in order to reduce nutrient runoff, improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and protect Pennsylvania’s natural resources

Program Required Measurements:

  • Farmers are not required to take measurements 
  • Projects must be certified by a person with appropriate training

Tools & Guidance: 

  • To be determined 

Funding Source/s:

  • The General Fund 

Funding Type/s:  

  • Grants
  • Low-interest loans

Practices Eligible for Funding: 

  • Best management practices as defined by the NRCS or the State Conservation Commission, specifics to be determined 

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking Process:

  • The State Conservation Commission is in the process of creating the rules and guidelines

State Universities & Researchers: 

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups

Unknown

Lessons Learned:

Media:

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Questions?

Contact Pennsylvania@healthysoilspolicy.org