The Department of Environmental Protection today announced the award of more than $2.6 million in grant awards to 36 conservation districts within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
These funds, which will support 50 staff positions that provide technical assistance with implementing agricultural Best Management Practices, will also allow conservation district staff to begin a Chesapeake Bay-wide outreach effort to Pennsylvania farms.
"This grant will increase the public's awareness of DEP regulations and environmental requirements in the agricultural community," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. "It is an excellent opportunity to work with conservation districts to further protect our waterways and our environment through educational outreach."
On May 17, the State Conservation Commission, which oversees the funding DEP provides to conservation districts, approved the department's allocation of Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant funds for Chesapeake Bay technicians and engineers in various conservation districts.
Part of the districts' responsibility under these grants is to reach out to agricultural operations within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and inform the agricultural community of their regulatory obligations. Conservation district staff will begin conducting site visits with agricultural operations this month.
Since 1972, all Pennsylvania farms have been subject to environmental regulations which specify that farmers must maintain agricultural erosion and sedimentation control or conservation plans for all cropland and areas heavily used by animals.
Farms that handle manure are required to have a Manure Management Plan and use the state's Manure Management Manual, which provides information on the environmentally correct ways to handle animal manure. Unlike some laws, manure management requirements apply to all farms, not only the large farms that are considered Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or Concentrated Animal Operations (CAOs).
The Manure Management Manual includes requirements for winter application of manure and setbacks from streams, drinking water supplies and sinkholes. As with the required written agricultural erosion control plans, a written manure management plan is required.
In addition to grants for conservation district staff, more than $800,000 from the CBIG was awarded to 46 agricultural projects and targeted to impaired watersheds. Funding was granted for projects that focus on agricultural BMPs, such as no-till/conservation tillage; cover crops; conservation and nutrient management planning activities; and riparian corridor improvements.
Farmers interested in additional information or assistance with developing farm erosion, sediment control and manure management plans are encouraged to contact their local county conservation district.