Ag Producers Urged to Help Tell Conservation Story

Lancaster Farming- April 16, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania farmers still have time to help share their individual agriculture conservation stories by completing Penn State’s Survey Research Center’s best management practices survey.

The survey, which is to be completed by April 30, was designed to capture those conservation practices farmers have installed — at their own expense — to maintain the viability of their farms while protecting water quality in their communities.

“For decades, many of Pennsylvania’s farmers have been doing the right thing — growing their farms and working to minimize any impairment to their local water quality,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.

“You can’t have healthy farms without healthy waterways,” he said. “Our farmers know this, which is why many of them have been working toward these co-equal goals on their own. We want to ensure that their efforts are accounted for and give our producers credit for all they’re doing.”

The survey, which is confidential, was developed to help collect data for those BMPs that may not have been cost-shared and therefore are not on record as a part of the state’s efforts to improve the health of the waterways, in particular the Chesapeake Bay.

“Earlier this year, we unveiled a strategy to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and its success relies on the agriculture industry making 75 percent of Pennsylvania’s total nutrient load reductions,” Redding said.

“While agriculture will do our part to continue meeting the state’s obligations to a healthier bay watershed, it’s also important that we recognize and capture the good work our farmers are doing on their own,” he said. “I thank everyone who has responded to the survey already and urge those who haven’t to complete the survey and help us continue sharing agriculture’s story.”

There are about 33,600 producers farming in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. To date, about 5,000 of those farmers have responded to the survey.

The survey is designed to help identify those conservation BMPs installed by farmers without state or federal cost-share funds on farms across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Data on these non-cost-shared BMPs will be aggregated so no individually identifiable information is available, then submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection for review and analysis.

DEP will share those findings with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Currently, Pennsylvania has reported only those conservation BMPs that were funded in whole or part by state or federal dollars.

This survey quantifies the BMPs and allows for federally approved documentation of the accuracy of this self-reported data through follow-up farm visits.

“We need everyone’s input — the more we can quantify our good work, the further we are toward agriculture’s nutrient reduction goals,” Redding said.

Farmers can fill out the paper version of the survey or complete it online. Visit http://src.survey.psu.edu/farmbmp to take the survey online or call Penn State’s Survey Research Center at 866-898-4277 and ask for the “PA Farm Conservation Practices Inventory Project” to receive a hard copy.

Participants should submit their responses by April 30. When taking the survey, producers should have their conservation and nutrient management plans on hand for reference.

Responses will remain confidential and never will be associated with a farmer’s name or location. The survey is administered by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Ten percent of the participants will be selected randomly for farm visits by Penn State Extension to assess inventory results and help researchers better understand the methods used and challenges encountered when adopting various management practices.

For more information about the strategy to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay, visit www.agriculture.pa.gov, Click on “Protect,” “State Conservation Commission” and “Chesapeake Bay.”

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