State Ag Department, EPA offer support for healthy farms, clean water, food security

STEVENS – Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Northeast Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio signed a five-year Letter of Understanding formalizing the agencies’ joint commitment to supporting measures to sustain healthy farms, clean water and food security for the region’s future.

Officials signed the agreement at Worth the Wait Farms in Stevens, Lancaster County, with agriculture leaders from across the mid-Atlantic.

“These past few months have made it crystal clear to all of us that having food on our tables depends on having farms that are functioning at the top of their game and ready for whatever nature throws at them,” Redding said. “What happens on farms in Lancaster County has a tremendous impact on the daily lives of four million people in our region. The Landis family models soil and water conservation practices that ensure clean water, and a healthy farm that will keep producing food now and in the future.”

The agreement expands activities to prioritize funding, coordinate regulatory programs, recognize farmers for environmental stewardship and enhance opportunities for a dialogue with the agricultural community.

“This agreement builds on the actions our agencies are taking together and with the broader agricultural community to promote a vibrant farm economy and clean rivers and streams,” said Servidio. “This letter formalizes our work together in the pursuit of solutions that are good for both agriculture and the environment.”

The agreement reiterates Pennsylvania’s commitment to continued efforts, including the PA Farm Bill, a historic $23 million investment in growing and sustaining the commonwealth’s agriculture industry, which was modeled after Gov. Tom Wolf’s six-point plan to cultivate future generations of Pennsylvania agriculture. The bill supports business development and succession planning, creates accommodations for a growing animal agriculture sector, removes regulatory burdens, strengthens the ag workforce, protects infrastructure, and works toward making Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state.

The Farm Bill created the $2.5 million Conservation Excellence Grant program, which funds on-farm measures that reduce erosion and run-off, improving soil and water quality to ultimately sustain agriculture and improve the region’s quality of life. Examples include fencing to keep livestock out of streams, streambank restoration, cover crops, planted streamside buffers to filter nutrients out of streams, manure storage, and comprehensive plans to manage nutrients, control erosion and conserve soil and water.

The Landis family’s farm was chosen for the announcement in celebration of conservation measures they have taken on their seventh-generation dairy farm.

During the event, American Dairy Association Northeast CEO Rick Naczi recognized the Landis family for their environmental stewardship with the organization’s Dairying for Tomorrow Award.

 “Throughout 2020, and despite its many challenges, our dairy farmers continue to produce high-quality milk, while remaining committed to the care of their animals, their land, and being a good neighbor to their local communities,” said Rick Naczi, ADA North East CEO. “The Dairying for Tomorrow Awards were designed to help recognize these efforts.”

The five-year Letter of Understanding outlines the two agencies’ commitment to coordinate and leverage federal, state and private funding to support agricultural conservation practices and innovative approaches to advancing sustainable agriculture and environmental protection.