FARMLAND FUNDING UPDATE
Very good news as of this morning. I’m happy to report the proposed $27M taking from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund did NOT happen. The revenue package that passed this AM (Thursday) no longer included previously targeted easement money.
For Lehigh Co. this means our remaining committed funds are SAFE. So, the 13 holdover 2017 County Farms that were in danger of losing their funding will now move forward with preservation. And we remain in excellent shape to continue to move down the 84 farm waitlist over the next two years.
I want to thank the Association of farmland preservation directors for providing the factual information to back up our argument that the funds targeted were indeed not “surplus” but rather funds already committed and encumbered towards the intended goal of preserving farms! I’m hearing that our advocacy made a big difference.
I want to personally thank PA State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie for taking the time to listen. He met with me last Saturday and heard our concerns. Today, he reached out to let me know the “raid” was off. And later it was confirmed by the Dept. of Agriculture and State Association of Farmland Preservation Directors. Again, this is very good news for our community!
The goal of a no tax increase and debt free budget is important. I am rooting for that. We are taxed enough in this state. That is a goal I completely support. When this issue was initially brought up I said there has got to be a way to do that without impacting the critical farmland preservation program. Turns out there was! And I thank the Taxpayer Caucus for keeping their eyes on the prize but also listening to constituents. Government works best when elected officials are in tune with the people.
While this isn’t completely over yet we’re in very good shape. The budget process continues. Now the Senate and House must agree on a final package. I understand the State Senate is still proposing a budget that includes debt. I’m hopeful that is avoided in the final package.