Pa. small farms making water quality strides with their plans

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently reported on the commitment of Pennsylvania’s farmers to reduce pollutants in local streams and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Department inspections resulted in 96 percent of almost 3,000 small farms visited in the watershed meeting state requirements for water quality planning.

“DEP’s expanded inspections program is a winning formula to improve stream health in our 43 counties in the Bay watershed,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “It documents the good work many farmers are doing voluntarily to develop plans to reduce pollution.”

Plans required

Farmers are required to have a Manure Management Plan to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous levels, an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan to reduce sediment levels, or both.

“Pennsylvania’s farmers have demonstrated that they understand the connection between clean water downstream, and healthy soil and water for Pennsylvania,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said.

“We certainly have more work to do, but these inspection results demonstrate that farmers are committed to doing their part to improve water quality.”

DEP, Conservation District offices, and the State Conservation Commission teamed up on inspections. They visited 2,924 farms, covering more than 329,000 acres of farmland. Focusing on smaller farms, they inspected operations averaging 87 acres in size.

The results show that many farmers are willing to develop plans to reduce pollutants in local waters: Two-thirds of farmers visited already had their plan prepared at the time of inspection.

Almost all the remaining one-third worked with conservation districts and agricultural consultants to develop their plan by the end of the inspection year.

The program covered July 2017 through July 2018.

Second year

The results represent the second year of the inspections program, which DEP launched in 2016 to complement existing state farm inspection programs. While inspections currently focus on plan development, the goal is to begin focusing on plan implementation in 2019-2020.

Pennsylvania has 33,610 farms, spanning three million acres in agricultural land use, in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

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