MEADVILLE, Pa. — Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding celebrated Earth Day with a visit to Ernst Conservation Seeds in Meadville, where he touted the PA Farm Bill’s connections to conservation.
“Ernst Conservation Seeds has a long and rich history of practicing innovative conservation efforts and serving as a leader in environmental stewardship,” Redding said. “There is no better time or place for us to highlight a commitment to conservation than right here, right now, on Earth Day.”
Founded by Calvin Ernst in 1964, Ernst Conservation Seeds is the largest native seed producer and supplier in the eastern United States. The company grows, processes, and sells hundreds of species of native and naturalized seeds and live plant materials, propagated on more than 9,000 acres in northwestern Pennsylvania.
The PA Farm Bill, a package of legislation that provides support for and continued investments in the commonwealth’s agriculture industry, was modeled after the governor’s six-point plan to cultivate future generations of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry.
A key component would create the Conservation Excellence Grant Program, funded at $2.5 million, to offer financial and technical assistance to farmers to install and implement best management practices. It would also provide $500,000 for the Agriculture Linked Investment Program, a low-interest loan program for the implementation of best management practices and would expand Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) tax credits by $3 million to increase the lifetime cap and increase availability.
Other highlights of the legislation include developing the Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program, making Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state, supporting the PA Preferred program, and creating the state-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to invest in high-priority horticultural crops like hemp, hops and hardwoods.