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United Way of Lancaster County


Advocates tout Inflation Reduction Act’s potential to assist Lancaster County farmers

Millersville University Professor Sepi Yalda speaks about climate change at Penn Square on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. Behind her are, from left; Jaime Arroyo, CEO of Assets; state Rep. Ismail Smith-Wade-El, D-Lancaster; and Eric Sauder, executive director of RegenAll. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Local elected officials and environmental experts gathered in Penn Square on Thursday morning to make the case for farmers and policymakers to embrace the federal Inflation Reduction Act.

For farmers, the issue of climate change is increasingly becoming “a matter of survival,” said Eric Sauder, founder of the environmental nonprofit RegenAll.

Nationwide, the IRA commits $40 billion to agricultural and rural initiatives, including $19.5 billion to strengthening farmland conservation and $14 billion for renewable energy. Those investments can make a real difference on the ground, helping farms become more resilient in the long term, Sauder said.

Accompanying Sauder were state Rep. Ismail Smith-Wade-El, D-Lancaster; Jaime Arroyo, CEO of the nonprofit Assets and a Lancaster City Council member; and Sepi Yalda, a professor at Millersville University and director of its Center for Disaster Research and Education.

Thursday’s event was organized by the Climate Action Campaign, a national advocacy group. It is fighting against Republican efforts to rescind the IRA’s spending and calling on state and local governments to move forward expeditiously with rolling out programs and funding.

Lancaster County has made significant strides on clean water and sustainable agricultural practices, Sauder said. Farmers here are building riparian buffers and reducing erosion by adopting no-till practices and planting cover crops. The IRA can add substantially to those efforts, Sauder said.

“I join with these other speakers to urge our representatives to support our farmers and deliver on the promise of these funds,” he said.

Climate change is leading to shorter, warmer winters in Lancaster County, which can be expected to increase the pressure from insect pests and weeds, Yalda said. It’s also leading to precipitation that’s higher in volume and more variable: The region can expect more prolonged dry periods, but a greater chance of intense storms and deluges.

“In order to ensure food security, it is imperative that we maintain an integrated approach to managing our agricultural system that is resilient to changes in climate,” she said.

Agriculture is central to Lancaster County’s economy and a key to its prosperity, Arroyo said. But that is increasingly in jeopardy, he said, pointing to this summer’s heat waves and dry conditions.

For too long, the environment and the economy have been put “on opposite ends of the conversation,” Smith-Wade-El said.

“That ends today,” he said. It’s time for farmers, he said “to be the primary stakeholders in protecting our environmental future.”