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Guest Opinion

A Farm Bill for us all


When you hear the phrase “Farm Bill,” you probably don’t think about streams, trees, birds, or many of the other environmental highlights of our area because, after all, what do they have to do with farming and agriculture?

Despite its name, you don’t have to be a farmer to benefit from the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is an omnibus piece of legislation that governs an array of programs extending beyond livestock and crop yielding.

From community food access and farmer support to land conservation and water quality protection, our agricultural industry touches the lives of every American family more frequently than any other industry — and is greatly supported by the Farm Bill and its programs.

Because of its wide reach, the Farm Bill is a vital tool that brings some unlikely partners together. And, because agriculture has been one of the only major economic sectors without plans or incentives to limit carbon pollution, this legislation will have a significant impact in the fight against climate change.

Critically, the next farm bill must protect and build upon $20 billion in investments through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to increase carbon-smart agricultural practices.

The funds will be invested via the Farm Bill in proven, popular, and voluntary programs for farmers, from incentives to plant cover crops to wetland and grassland conservation. Together, the Farm Bill and the IRA have the potential to bring unprecedented levels of state and federal funds to Bucks County that can work together to safely preserve local water quality, open space, wildlife and food production.

Fourteen million people rely on the Delaware River Basin for their drinking water. It is critical that we protect and build upon the investments in this year’s Farm Bill — investments that work in synergy with the landmark conservation funding, particularly Growing Greener Plus Grants Program and Clean Streams Fund, included in this year’s state budget. For readers who feel that keeping our essential water source clean is important, you can get involved by telling your representative in Congress to support this Farm Bill without funding cuts.

In Bucks County, and across the commonwealth, many people have already joined us at Bucks County Audubon Society (BCAS) and Conservation Voters of PA (CVPA) in working to protect agricultural-based initiatives and investments like these that promote clean water, conservation, and other environmental priorities.

BCAS knows firsthand how organizations and communities like ours can benefit from these investments.

Bucks County Audubon Society is a steward of the Honey Hollow Watershed, a National Historic Landmark since 1969. Ours was the first upland watershed to demonstrate that cooperative local action, supported by federal assistance, is a practical method of achieving national goals in water protection, wildlife conservation, and flood prevention. The Farm Bill’s provisions for protecting water quality, including by the enhancement of riparian buffers, are worthy of strong support.

Bucks County Audubon Society has preserved roughly 60 acres in partnership with Heritage Conservancy. Since 1969, BCAS has twice led successful efforts to prevent the urbanization of substantial parts of Upper Bucks County, preventing plans to alter the landscape permanently.

About a dozen acres of our land are managed by friends at the Carversville Farm Foundation. The Farm Foundation works the field and uses best farm practices that regenerate soil vitality and limit or eliminate the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides.

As the agriculture industry confronts new challenges, including here in Bucks County, it must be supported in new ways to ensure its future success. The Farm Bill is an important measure to accomplish that.

It’s critical that Pennsylvania lawmakers support a Farm Bill that includes the popular, cost-saving, and pro-conservation programs farmers and communities rely on to protect and preserve our state’s resources and natural beauty for generations to come.

Michael Celec is the executive director of the Bucks County Audubon Society. Molly Parzen is the executive director of the Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania.

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