2012 Budget Attack
In March 2012, Governor Corbett’s 2012-13 budget proposed to redirect $20.485 million from the Farmland Preservation Program to general government operations. The Governor’s budget proposed temporarily funding farmland preservation with Growing Greener bond revenues for two years. This would have meant that growing greener funding originally slated for conservation, including farmland preservation, would be redirected to the farmland preservation program, leaving conservation spending reduced by $20M/year. This would also mean that after two years, the farmland preservation program would no longer be funded.
Thanks to swift grassroots efforts and to the PA General Assembly, funding for farmland preservation (and the Keystone Fund) was restored for 2012-13.
The Farmland Preservation Program was established in 1988 to curb the conversion of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses and the loss of productive farm soils. The program allows state, county, and local governments to purchase conservation easements from owners of valuable farmland. These conservation easements restrict development of the land for the purpose of promoting agricultural production. The program is funded through an annual allotment of cigarette tax revenue as well as Growing Greener II bond funds. The Bureau of Farmland Preservation within the Department of Agriculture oversees the program. According to the Bureau, as of December 2011, state, county and local governments have invested more than $1 billion to safeguard 457,537 acres on 4,229 farms.
The cigarette tax is an excise tax on the sale or possession of cigarettes and little cigars in Pennsylvania. Currently, $20.485 million is directed annually to the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund (ACEP), which helps preserve Pennsylvania farmland. According to the Governor’s budget proposal, “the transfer to the ACEP fund is to be eliminated for 2012-13 and after”.