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PCCD Helps Farmers Meet Chesapeake Bay Protection Standards

August 29th, 2017

Potter County farmers have by and large been doing their part to cut the amount of contaminants running off agricultural land into the Chesapeake Bay watershed, signaling a historic shift in a decades-long trend that has fouled that important estuary. Potter County Conservation District (PCCD) has been a key player. “Most of our local farms are complying with the state’s requirements, but many don’t have formal plans in place yet,” PCCD manager Jason Childs said. “The majority are willing to work with us to help develop those plans.” The handful that have not responded to PCCD’s notifications will be referred to the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) for further communication aimed toward compliance.

New measurement tools are being used to verify county-by-county reductions in agricultural nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Some 44 Potter County farms have been inspected since last November. Another 50 inspections are planned before next spring. Casey Boyer, who recently joined PCCD as agricultural conservation/Chesapeake Bay technician, is performing the inspections.

“Our goal is to maintain a technical assistance role as much as possible, and to discuss potential projects the farmers could tackle to reduce run-off,” Childs said. PCCD can help local producers apply for grants, construct best management practices, and document measures that have already been completed to protect natural resources. These range from installation of roof gutters, vegetated buffers and no-till zones, to rotational grazing systems and streambank fencing.

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandated that Pennsylvania reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment it sends into the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. Sources include not only agricultural run-off, but also wastewater treatment systems, stormwater diversion and streambank erosion throughout the watershed. Statewide, about 60 percent of farmers have met their requirements to have manure management plans, erosion and sediment control plans, or both.  “This is a complex issue and it requires a great deal of cooperation, but steady progress is being made,” Childs emphasized. “We need to continue to work together to achieve this goal, as well as to protect the local natural resources of the county.”

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