Legislative changes. Tax incentives. Targeted enforcement. Improved soil health. Bureaucratic streamlining. Expanded educational programs. These were just a few of the ideas proposed and discussed recently over three days at the “Pennsylvania in the Balance” conference in Hershey. The conference was organized by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and sponsored by Stock and Leader, as well as federal and state government agencies, non-profit groups, and agricultural organizations. Over 100 representatives of producers, government, agricultural groups, and non-profits, including Stock and Leader’s Martin Siegel and Sarah Doyle, collectively identified new and innovative solutions to ensure vibrant, productive agriculture while meeting water quality goals for Pennsylvania’s streams and the Chesapeake Bay.
It was evident during the conference’s deliberations that farmers strive to be good environmental stewards, but often lack the resources, knowledge, or clear direction from government to implement measures to promote environmental protection and to increase productivity. It was also clear that the agricultural community was not opposed to compliance efforts by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection per se, but felt that these efforts must be targeted at the “bad actors,” consistent, and efficient. The conference was characterized by the collaborative approach taken by attendees representing many groups with diverse interests, replacing past interactions that focused on finger pointing and placing blame on others.
The organizers will now take the proposals developed during the conference and produce a consensus strategy document with clear action items. The document will ultimately be shared with EPA, DEP, legislators, and USDA to advance the implementation of the proposals.