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Pennsylvania snags $7.85M from feds to help farmers fight climate change

By John L. Micek 

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has snagged a $7.85 million grant from the federal government that will help farmers across the commonwealth fight climate change. The grant program will pay for “climate-smart” practices on farms that have been protected from development, officials said on Monday. There’s also money available for farmers who are interested in transitioning to organic farming.

The state’s $12.8 million investment in preserving farms will help leverage the federal money for farms “that implement and measure the impact of practices that address climate change,” according to the Agriculture Department.

“Climate change is presenting serious challenges to the farmers who feed us and feed our economy,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in the agency’s statement.

The state has “invested heavily in protecting farmland from development and making farming practices more sustainable and farms more resilient,” Redding continued. “We have been creative in multiplying those investments to have an even greater impact on our future food supply and economy.”

“These dollars will be a significant tool for our efforts to improve soil health on preserved farms and reduce the impact of climate change,” Bureau of Farmland Preservation Director Douglas Wolfgang said in a statement.

“Regenerative farming practices capture and store carbon from the atmosphere and mitigate the effects of climate change,” Wolfgang continued. “Our hope is that the project will provide additional conservation opportunities for preserved farm owners and multiply the good we are doing for Pennsylvania’s future.”

Pennsylvania won its first grant  — some $6.3 million — through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, as it’s formally known, in 2018. The money paid for projects in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, according to the Agriculture Department.

The state’s second grant, awarded in 2019-20, paid for farmland preservation efforts and natural resource protection in the state’s Kittatinny Ridge region, which runs through eastern and central Pennsylvania, to the Maryland state line.

Officials said the federal money builds on spending in the 2022-23 state budget that invests “$220 million total in the new Clean Streams Fund, including $154 million to fund the new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program supporting farmers’ efforts to reduce water pollution and improve soil quality, and $22 million to increase funding for the existing Nutrient Management Fund, which supports technical assistance to farms to reduce run-off.”

Pennsylvania Capital Star is part of the States Newsroom, a network of similar news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

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