September 30, 2020
Pennsylvania House of Representatives Agricultural & Rural Affairs Committee
Re: Support SB 881: 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 request that you support Senate Bill 881. The bill presently sits before the Agricultural & Rural Affairs Committee. You can immediately help by requesting of the chair that a committee vote be scheduled as soon as possible and then voting in favor of it.
While imposing no new costs on the Commonwealth, SB 881 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 have substantial experience raising philanthropic dollars to provide this management.)
SB 881 also will incentivize agricultural preservation by farmers belonging to plain sect communities, who are often reluctant to work with government.
Thank you for your consideration.
Andrew M. Loza