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Government Officials Pledge More Assistance to Farmers to Meet Chesapeake Bay Requirements

State governmental representatives in the Chesapeake Bay watershed last week urged their individual states to increase technical assistance to encourage farmers to implement best management practices (“BMPs”) to control runoff from the more than 83,000 farms located in the Bay watershed. The Chesapeake Bay Executive Counsel, which issued the directive, is the Bay’s top policymaking body and includes the governors of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, and New York, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

EPA recently determined that the region is on track to meet phosphorus and sediment goals but is significantly lagging in efforts to attain the required reductions in nitrogen discharges. Pennsylvania, in particular, is further behind other jurisdictions in meeting its nitrogen reduction goals. Roughly 80% of the needed nitrogen reductions in Pennsylvania will need to come from agriculture. Pennsylvania’s failure to make required progress in meeting its nitrogen reduction goals could lead to greater intervention  and regulation by EPA in the state’s efforts.

Pennsylvania farmers generally are required to have one or more plans in place detailing how they will control soil erosion and manure runoff into streams. Soil erosion and manure runoff are major causes of stream impairment in Pennsylvania’s Bay watershed, particularly in Lancaster and York counties. Unfortunately, there are too few trained people to assist farmers in preparing the necessary plans and to install BMPs. The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council’s directive calls on states to work with the private and nonprofit sectors to expand the network of trained professionals to assist farmers. The governors also encouraged Congress to increase spending in the federal Farm Bill for programs that fund conservation efforts used by farmers in the Bay watershed.

Attorneys in Stock and Leader’s Environment, Energy, and Environmental Mediation Group actively monitor regulatory and policy developments related to Chesapeake Bay requirements so as to advise their municipal and agriculture clients on optimal strategies to meet all regulatory mandates.

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