In an effort to reduce nutrient run-off (which is major contributor to Chesapeake Bay and Susquehanna River water quality issues) from farms in Pennsylvania, efforts should be focused on incentivizing change. Ultimately, farmers should want to take steps to reduce nutrient run-off, not just feel like they have to take these steps. This is a key conclusion advanced by a consortium of Pennsylvania agricultural and environmental leaders in a recently released report “Pennsylvania in the Balance: Harnessing Agriculture’s Culture of Stewardship as a Solution to Clean Water.” The report is the result of a March 2016 conference, sponsored in part by Stock and Leader, convened by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. The goal of this effort is to identify new, innovative solutions that can help ensure vibrant, productive agriculture while meeting water quality goals for Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay.
The report cites the need to build upon an already existing culture of stewardship in the agricultural community. There is also a strong emphasis on targeting limited resources to utilize proven management practices in high priority areas. Recognizing that most farmers want to reduce run-off but may lack the resources to do so, the report recommends a three-pronged approach to the agricultural community: education and outreach; technical assistance; and enforcement. Utilization of this approach would be part of an overall structure to incentivize farmers to implement steps necessary to protect water quality.
Pennsylvania in the Balance identifies four specific initiatives to pursue. These are the need to 1) increase technical capacity through enhancements in conservation training opportunities; 2) develop and disseminate a narrative around a “Culture of Stewardship” through soil and stream health; 3) develop new and creative incentives to encourage a high bar of conservation beyond compliance; and 4) develop and deploy delivery mechanisms for accelerating conservation in priority watersheds.
Since the March 2016 Pennsylvania in the Balance conference, participants have taken specific steps to advance these measures. Meetings with key agencies, including the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Agriculture, have been held to discuss these initiatives. In addition, a PA in the Balance Partnership Council, consisting of key stakeholders (including farmers and agribusinesses) has been formed to advance the agenda identified in the report.
Not only has Stock and Leader taken an active role in this initiative, but we have also helped clients understand their compliance obligations as well as connected them to necessary resources to achieve compliance.
For more information on Pennsylvania in the Balance and the PA in the Balance Partnership, contact Matt Royer, Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center, firstname.lastname@example.org, (814) 863-8765.