February 22, 2021 [transmitted via email]
Re. Support SB 64: leverage farm preservation funds
No cost to state; large conservation benefit
On behalf of the 70 member organizations of WeConservePA (formerly the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association) and their more than 100,000 Pennsylvania members, I write to ask you to support Senator Martin’s Senate Bill 64. The bill will likely run this week.
In 2020, the Senate voted 47-1 for the legislation.
While imposing no new costs on the Commonwealth, SB 64 will increase the volume of farm preservation achieved by the state. It will accomplish this by directing a small portion—up to $3 million annually—of the existing Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund to support the purchase of agricultural conservation easements by private, charitable land trusts. The increased quantity of farm preservation will result from the bill’s requirement that land trusts match state funding dollar for dollar.
Land trust involvement in farm preservation delivers further public benefit in the long term by placing the responsibility and costs of managing the purchased agricultural conservation easements on the land trust rather than county and state government. (Land trusts are experienced in raising private dollars for this management.)
SB 64 will also incentivize agricultural preservation by farmers belonging to plain sect communities, who are often reluctant to work with government.
Thank you for your consideration.
cc: member organization