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Rep. Sturla Introduces Bill To Strengthen Clean And Green Program, Farm Conservation
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Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster) has introduced House Bill 1823 to strengthen the state's Clean and Green property tax relief program for farmers and improve the standards for soil erosion and sediment control in Pennsylvania.

"It is estimated that roughly half of those who receive preferential assessment under the Clean and Green Program do not have an Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control Plan, so my bill would require all applicants to have a functioning plan," Rep. Sturla said. "Citizens are willing to give Clean and Green property owners substantial tax breaks if they agree to be good stewards of the land, but they do not like tax breaks for polluters. These landowners must live up to their environmental commitment under the program to protect our rivers, waterways and the Chesapeake Bay."

Rep. Sturla, who serves on the Chesapeake Bay Commission, said that applicants would need to have verification of an erosion and sediment control plan or not be eligible for the program. Current members of the program would have a four-year time frame to become compliant by submitting a plan.

Rep. Sturla noted that statewide regulations were enacted in 1972 to require erosion and sediment control plans for agricultural plowing or tilling activities that disturb 5,000 square feet or more of land. House Bill 1823 would apply to both agricultural use and forested land.

"Presently, it is not mandatory that those participating in Clean and Green have an Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control Plan that contains a current schedule for implementation for their property because it is, incorrectly, assumed that they do," Rep. Sturla said. "It is time to verify the existence of the plans for the sake of our environment and to make sure that taxpayer dollars are not helping to pollute water."

The Clean and Green program provides a real estate tax benefit to owners of agricultural or forest land by taxing that land on the basis of its "use value" rather than its market value.

These owners agree to maintain their land solely devoted to agricultural use, agricultural reserve or forest reserve use. The program is overseen and administered by the state Department of Agriculture.

7/13/2009

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