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The House of Representatives passed Congressman Jim Gerlach’s farm land and open space preservation legislation Tuesday afternoon. H.R. 5313 would set aside existing federal farmland protection dollars to encourage municipalities to protect more open space by purchasing development rights.
“Not only is this legislation important for my Congressional District, but keeping our open spaces open and preserving our precious farm lands is an issue important to a lot of suburban areas across the country,” Rep. Gerlach said, adding, “I’m glad my colleagues in the House recognized the importance of this legislation and supported its passage today. I hope the Senate will take swift action on this bill.”
Congressman Gerlach’s legislation would set aside 15 percent of existing federal Farmland Protection Program funds to encourage municipalities to establish their own local farmland preservation initiatives. This would steer as many federal dollars as possible towards those projects already getting wide support from states, counties and municipalities or private organizations, ensuring that the increasingly limited federal resources are being used to preserve the most threatened farmland.
“So for every dollar spent by the local, state, and county authorities to preserve farm land, the federal government, under my legislation, would add another dollar,” Rep. Gerlach said. “This would complement the existing programs in place, while hopefully encouraging even more preservation of our precious open spaces.”
Additionally, the legislation encourages states and local governments to do more. States like Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania's counties and municipalities have invested heavily in preserving farmland. The challenge grant created through H.R. 5313 would only help to encourage other states and more local governments to follow this example and compete for federal dollars available through the challenge grant.
In a prepared statement, House Majority Leader John Boehner said the following about passage of the Gerlach open space bill: "The economic sustainability of our farming communities is very important to our future. This bill would leverage existing federal dollars towards state and local projects that already received wide support and help preserve our most threatened farmland. Rep. Gerlach should be commended for his efforts to protect our threatened farmland and on behalf of his constituents."
More information about the bill is attached to this release as is a copy of the floor statement Congressman Gerlach read prior to passage of his legislation.