As a conservation agency, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in PA takes pride in helping improve our environment.
Its technical and financial assistance from the federal Farm Bill programs helps farmers and forest landowners install various conservation practices that result in healthier soil, cleaner air, more abundant fish and wildlife habitat and cleaner water.
Since over half of Pennsylvania lies within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, farmers and forest landowners play a major role in helping to clean up the Bay by installing water quality conservation practices that assist the Pennsylvania meet its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals in the watershed.
Since 2008, NRCS has provided more than $268.5 million in financial assistance to Pennsylvania farmers and forest landowners in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed through a number of Farm Bill Programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI) program and Conservation Stewardship Program (CStP), among others.
In the Bay Watershed, these funds have been utilized primarily for nutrient reduction, erosion and sediment control, stream corridor protection, and overall landscape health. On average 80-85 percent of Pennsylvania’s funds are devoted to livestock producers and those cropland producers who apply manure on cropland.
From 2008-2015, PA-NRCS applied nutrient management to more than 157,000 acres and installed 759 waste storage facilities, more than 6 million square feet of heavy use area protection, and over 3 million linear feet of fence to improve pasture and stream conditions.
While NRCS has allocated funds throughout the Watershed, it has also targeted monies in several key watersheds within Pennsylvania’s portion of the Bay Watershed, including the Upper Kishacoquillas and Yellow Creeks.
Nearly $4 million has been targeted to key high-priority watersheds and National Quality Initiative (NWQI) areas that have been determined by the US Geological Survey to have excessive nitrogen, sediment and phosphorus.
Within these key watersheds, PA-NRCS has also targeted funds using a precision conservation effort to install key conservation practices, like buffers and nutrient management, on fields that have the highest percentage of leaching soils and phosphorus runoff.
Under the 2008 Farm Bill, PA-NRCS has invested more than $9 million to fund about 214 additional full-time employees through partnership agreements.
These employees provide technical assistance through the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Pheasants Forever, local Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Councils and Conservation Districts.
For example, PA-NRCS has supplied funds to support the partnership agreements through the existing NRCS workforce to plan, implement, and monitor an estimated 178,211 Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) acres in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
NRCS continues conservation efforts focused on water quality within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed today through the 2014 Farm Bill.
Under a new program called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), NRCS co-invests with partners in innovative, workable, and cost-effective approaches to benefit farming, forest operations, local economies, and the communities and resources in a watershed or other geographic area.
In 2015, Pennsylvania NRCS received funding for two RCPP projects in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The two projects provide more than $3 million in financial assistance through EQIP and additional technical assistance for high-priority conservation practices such as riparian forested buffers in targeted sub-watersheds and counties.
A detailed report on Pennsylvania NRCS’s conservation activities within the Chesapeake Bay watershed from 2008-2015 is available online.
Click Here for how PA-NRCS has helped farmers and landowners all over Pennsylvania through this recent report on the results from the NRCS FY 2011-2015 Strategic Plan.For more information on conservation programs and available assistance, please contact your local USDA Service Center or visit the PA NRCS webpage.