A new survey conducted by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences documents a large number of practices implemented by Pennsylvania farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, at their own expense, aimed at improving water quality. These measures have a direct positive impact on Pennsylvania streams, and ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. Nearly 7,000 Pennsylvania farmers participated in the survey, which presents the first comprehensive inventory of farmers’ voluntary use of water quality best management practices. The survey was intended to document for the first time practices voluntarily implemented by farmers at their own expense, rather than those funded by the federal or state government.
Farmers who participated in the survey documented practices that included 475,800 acres of nutrient/manure management, 97,562 acres of enhanced nutrient management, 228,264 acres of conservation plans, 5,808 acres of forested buffers, and more than 1.3 million linear feet of streambank fencing. Verification of the survey results on a sample of respondents by Penn State confirmed the accuracy of the survey responses.
It is expected that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will accept most of these numbers as inputs into its Chesapeake Bay model, a tool used by EPA to predict impacts of Chesapeake Bay water quality. Penn State cautioned that these results do not mean that Pennsylvania’s agricultural sector has done everything it needs to in order to meet water quality goals. It noted that more work clearly needs to be done. The survey results will likely have little or no impact on the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) and EPA’s ongoing enforcement efforts to ensure that farmers have all required nutrient and manure management plans in place. Stock and Leader’s Environmental Lawyers will continue to monitor DEP’s and EPA’s activities and assess how they will impact farmers.