Thursday, November 29, 2018

Inspections Find 96% Of Small Farms In PA Making Good Strides To Improve Water Quality In Chesapeake Bay Watershed

On November 29, the Department of Environmental Protection reported inspections found 96 percent of almost 3,000 small farms visited in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed were meeting state requirements for water quality planning.
“DEP’s expanded inspections program is a winning formula to improve stream health in our 43 counties in the Bay watershed,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “It documents the good work many farmers are doing voluntarily to develop plans to reduce pollution. Just as important, it creates productive working relationships that help farmers meet their plan obligations.”
Farmers are required to have a Manure Management Plan to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous levels, an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan to reduce sediment levels, or both.
“Nurturing living things is what farmers do,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “Pennsylvania’s farmers have demonstrated that they understand the connection between clean water downstream, and healthy soil and water for Pennsylvania. We certainly have more work to do, but these inspection results demonstrate that farmers are committed to doing their part to improve water quality.”
DEP, Conservation District offices, and the State Conservation Commission teamed up on inspections. They visited 2,924 farms, covering more than 329,000 acres of farmland. Focusing on smaller farms, they inspected operations averaging 87 acres in size.
The results show that many farmers are willing to develop plans to reduce pollutants in local waters: Two-thirds of farmers visited already had their plan prepared at the time of inspection.
Almost all the remaining one-third worked with conservation districts and agricultural consultants to develop their plan by the end of the inspection year. The program covered July 2017–July 2018.
“Education is a large part of the program, as we use inspections as a catalyst to help farmers understand what’s needed and get them on track to develop and ultimately act on their plans. Action to improve water quality is our ultimate goal,” said Secretary McDonnell.
The results represent the second year of the inspections program, which DEP launched in 2016 to complement existing state farm inspection programs. While inspections currently focus on plan development, the goal is to begin focusing on plan implementation in 2019-2020.
Pennsylvania has 33,610 farms, spanning three million acres in agricultural land use, in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
For more information on Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts in Pennsylvania, visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Plan webpage.
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