On April 7, 2016, the York County Conservation District (YCCD) threw a significant stumbling block in the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) efforts to reboot its Chesapeake Bay enforcement strategy. YCCD decided not to enter into an agreement with DEP to assume an inspection and compliance role under DEP’s revised Chesapeake Bay strategy. Other county conservation districts are considering similar action. If this movement gains momentum, an already understaffed DEP will be hard pressed to meet EPA imposed nutrient reduction mandates.
In January, DEP, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced a “reboot” of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay clean-up strategy. The agencies intend to shift their focus from education to enforcement. The agencies also stated that the county conservation districts would conduct the majority of the agricultural inspections in the Chesapeake Bay watershed for compliance with the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load requirements and the Clean Streams Law. DEP’s goal is to have 10% of the farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed inspected annually. However, with YCCD’s decision not to assume an inspection and compliance role, it is unclear who will fill this compliance void and provide “boots on the ground,” at least in York County.
County conservation districts traditionally have had a cooperation relationship with farmers, assisting them in efforts to comply with regulatory requirements. Many districts have informally expressed concern that by adding an inspection and compliance role, their long-standing cooperative relationship with farmers would be compromised. However, by refusing to assume this role, YCCD, and others districts that choose a similar path, may face a loss of DEP funding for other programs.
Stay tuned. Our Agricultural Industry Group will be monitoring developments to determine what this means for farmers in York County.