The PA Farm Bureau Tuesday called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to accept the findings of an extensive Penn State University survey measuring the scope of voluntary best management practices (BMPs) implemented by farmers to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment entering the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Farm Bureau said the results of the survey, which was conducted by Penn State University’s Survey Research Center on behalf of the state Department of Environmental Protection, are still undergoing a final review from a firm hired by EPA, but the results should be made available to the public soon.
In order to verify and confirm the accuracy of the survey responses, Penn State inspected 10 percent of the farms submitting surveys. Based on those inspections, Penn State determined it has a 95 percent confidence rate in the survey results.
In fact, the farm inspections revealed that many farmers actually under-reported the amount of BMPs implemented on their land.
The survey identified positive results across the board, including significant numbers involving manure management plans, conservation plans and manure storage and barnyard runoff projects.
The survey measured on-the-ground actions, which are paid for and implemented by farmers without cost-share assistance from the government, yet are not counted in reducing pollution by EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) computer model.
“Preliminary findings from the survey reveal what we have been telling environmental officials, the public and lawmakers for years, that farmers have been shelling out their own money to pay for conservation projects that improve the land and reduce runoff in the watershed. The time has come for EPA to recognize the significant role agriculture is playing to reduce ‘pollution’ entering the watershed,” said PFB President Rick Ebert, during a news conference at the state’s largest farm organization’s 66th Annual Meeting in Hershey.
“Farmers know that more work needs to be done to help Pennsylvania meet goals established by the TMDL, but federal and state officials need to recognize actions already undertaken by the agriculture community to improve the environment. They also need to refocus efforts to provide adequate financial resources to further address the problem,” added Ebert. “One area everyone seems to agree on is that Pennsylvania agriculture has been grossly underfunded in its effort to further improve the watershed.”
On the national level, PFB is looking forward to working with the Trump administration and a new Congress on issues critical to agriculture, including regulatory reform, farm labor, international trade and a new Farm Bill.
“Throughout the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly promised farmers they would have a seat at the table on key issues impacting agriculture. The President-elect talked about regulatory reform, including eliminating the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, addressing farm labor and immigration to recognize the unique challenges faced by the farming community and promoting a pro-agriculture administration that will provide opportunities for farm families to prosper,” added Ebert. “Rural voters, including farmers, played a major role in helping Mr. Trump secure the presidential election and they are counting on him to follow through on his campaign promises.”
One issue Farm Bureau and Mr. Trump disagreed on is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is a trade agreement designed to open up new markets for American farmers to sell their goods with 11 other countries.
“Although the TPP turned into a political quagmire during the Presidential election and will not be acted on this year, it did offer numerous opportunities for American farmers. In Pennsylvania alone, the TPP was expected to increase cash receipts for farm families by $177 million per year and net exports by $101 million per year,” continued Ebert. “We will work with the Trump administration to ensure they understand how trade agreements like the TPP will benefit American farmers and the U.S. economy.”
The PA Farm Bureau also spotlighted several of the organization’s key accomplishments in 2016, including spearheading a campaign that prevented Penn State Agriculture Research and Cooperative Extension offices from being closed across the Commonwealth (saving more than 1,100 research, extension and faculty jobs) and fighting for legislative changes that closed a loophole in the Farm Family Inheritance Tax Exemption law, so additional farm families are now eligible for the exemption.
Finally, PFB and our charitable organization, the PA Friends of Agriculture Foundation, celebrated a major milestone last month when we welcomed the 1,000,000th student inside one of our Mobile Agriculture Education Science Labs.
“Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s many accomplishments over the past year are directly linked to the hard work and efforts of our farmer members, who volunteer their precious time and resources to advocate on behalf of agriculture. In addition, farmers continue to focus on their core goal of producing a consistent and safe supply of food for consumers locally, nationally and across the world,” concluded Ebert.
NewsClip:PA Farm Bureau Looks Forward To Working With Trump