By Harry Campbell, PA Office Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Tim and Frances Sauder are doing their best to make ends meet while raising a young son and operating a small dairy farm in Lancaster County.
They tend to the 15 cows that provide the milk that becomes yogurt from Fiddle Creek Dairy, all the while paying close attention to the land and the water the flows through those hilly 55 acres.
"We made decisions on how we farm, in order to protect the watershed," Tim says. They have owned the farm for just four years.
"We want to farm in a way that's good for all layers of life, the water, the land, the plants, and the human community," Frances adds. "There's no easy answer and we're humbled by that."
The Sauders want to plant seven acres of trees as a 50-foot wide streamside buffer to protect the tributary to Big Beaver Creek that flows through the farm.
They also see the need to add manure storage and a composting facility, install more watering stations for the cows, and do something about the polluted runoff that floods across the road near their house after heavy rains.
Like many farmers in the Susquehanna River watershed, the Sauders understand that pollution flows downstream and want to do what is right to protect the water. But they cannot afford to pay for it all themselves.
Like other farmers too, the Sauders have applied for state and federal assistance. Sadly, there often isn't enough money to go around, so some projects never get onto the ground.
Pennsylvania is significantly behind in meeting its clean water commitments, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has identified the five counties that contribute the most pollution from agriculture and that would return the greatest reductions for new restoration dollars.
Lancaster is by far at the top of the list, followed by York, Franklin, Cumberland, and Adams.
The foundation is calling on federal partners, particularly the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to provide an initial, immediate commitment of $20 million in new restoration funds to those five counties.
This is money already in the USDA budget. In addition, our group is urging state and local governments to provide additional outreach, technical assistance, and funding.
Collectively, Lancaster, York, Franklin, Cumberland, and Adams counties contribute more than 30 million pounds of nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake Bay each year.
After analyzing federal data, the foundation determined that focusing additional investments in these counties could reduce nitrogen pollution by 14 million pounds.
That is more than half of the entire state's Clean Water Blueprint 2025 goal for reducing nitrogen pollution.
But to fully achieve the goal Pennsylvania has set, pollution reduction efforts must continue in all other counties of the Susquehanna watershed.
The Blueprint calls for 60 percent of pollution reduction efforts to be in place by 2017, and 100 percent in place by 2025.
Additional funding for pollution reduction projects will also support and create jobs and improve local economies.
Suppliers that sell the trees for buffers and fencing materials benefit. Excavators and builders who improve drainage to reduce polluted runoff or install manure storage and barnyard improvements get work.
It is also a win for farmers. Funding to reduce polluted runoff leads to better soil health and greater farm productivity. Herd health is protected because livestock aren't standing in streams and drinking the water.
Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania have been damaged by pollution.
Such efforts as the planting of streamside buffers, that reduce nitrogen pollution, also reduce harmful phosphorus and sediment runoff.
The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council, including the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New York, Delaware, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, the Mayor of Washington, D.C., and the Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, will meet on Oct. 4 to identify future restoration challenges.
We expect the Council to take real action to reduce nitrogen pollution in Lancaster and other key Pennsylvania counties, and get the Commonwealth back on track toward its Blueprint commitments.
Investing in places, practices, and people like Tim and Frances Sauder and Fiddle Creek Dairy will give us the greatest pollution reductions and the clean water that Pennsylvanians deserve.
For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the CBF-PA webpage. Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column). Click Here for a copy of CBF-PA’s most recent newsletter.
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