Agriculture is Pennyslvania’s second largest industry, but it is also a major contributor to water quality problems in many parts of the state.
Take the Chesapeake Bay, for example: Pennsylvania is the number one source of nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake, and of that, agriculture contributes more than 60 percent. PA is also the second largest source of sediment and phosphorous pollution to the Bay. Preserving Ag’s role in the economy while also protecting our waterways and other natural resources can be a delicate balancing act, but more and more farmers are taking up the challenge and achieving success.
Reducing agricultural impacts provides benefits to the water supply. Implementing source water protection measures can prevent and reduce pathogens such as cryptosporidium, sediment, livestock pharmaceuticals, ammonia, nitrate, and phosphorus.
Image credit: Agriculture Best Management Practices Calendar 2012 by Clinton County Conservation District WREN Grant Project – view/ download 28 page 4.05 MB calendar
Clearly, the majority of farmers want to do their part to protect water supplies, and it’s often through partnership with local utilities, Conservation Districts, governments, and non-profits that gets the job done.
The following videos provide insight into the water quality problems that can come along with a “business as usual” approach to farming–and the many positive benefits of employing best management approaches to managing livestock and land.
The Miller family has been farming in Adams County, PA for more than 50 years, and though they’re a far cry from a factory farm, the Millers juggle some 38,000 turkeys, 150 cattle, and more than 1,000 acres of land dedicated to wheat, corn, soybeans, and hay. Their operation is considered a Concentrated Animal feeding Operation (CAFO) because of their turkey contracts, and as a result, is subject to NPDES permit requirements under the federal Clean Water Act. When it comes to protecting water quality, through stormwater runoff management, they have embraced their responsibility taken a pro-active approach. They started working with their local County Conservation District to address stormwater runoff and drainage issues on some of their fields back in 1989—and have since partnered with the CCD and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on numerous efforts aimed at minimizing the sediment and nutrients coming off of their land.
More information about the project is available at StormwaterPA >>
United Water Delaware, the Chester County Conservation District (CCCD), the City of Newark, and landowner Barclay Hoopes collaborate at the Hoopes farm in Chester County to keep cows out of the stream–and prevent cryptosporidium and sediment from entering White Clay Creek.
A presentation on the project from the water supplier’s perspective is Available here >>
What happens on land in central Pennsylvania plays a key role in the health of the Chesapeake Bay. On a typical small Pennsylvania crop farm, a variety of best management practices (including contour farming, terraces, and grass “waterways”) work in tandem with a swale and forested buffer to protect a small stream. Which, in turn, protects the Chesapeake Bay.
Everybody Wins features field interviews with farmers, landowners, and agriculture professionals explaining the ecological and economic benefits of excluding livestock from streams, ponds, and rivers.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program – offers farmers financial, technical and educational assistance to install or implement structural, vegetative and management practices that conserve soil and natural resources.
Conservation Reserve & Conservation Reserve Enhancement Programs – Programs of the U.S. Dept of Agriculture that provide financial incentives to encourage farmers and ranchers to voluntarily protect soil, water and wildlife resources.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection -Water Management Regulations for Agricultural Operations webpage (manure management, manure storage, and CAFO’s)
Field to Faucet Website
EPA Fact Sheet – Protecting Water Quality from Agricultural Runoff
EPA Source Water Protection Practice Bulletins - Agriculture/Pesticides
- Source Water Protection Practices Bulletin: Managing Agricultural Fertilizer Application to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water ( PDF 6 pp , 608 K ) EPA 916-F-01-028
- Source Water Protection Practices Bulletin: Managing Livestock, Poultry, and Horse Waste to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water ( PDF 6 pp , 361 K ) EPA 916-F-01-026
- Source Water Protection Practices Bulletin: Managing Large-Scale Application of Pesticides to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water ( PDF 6 pp , 193 K ) EPA 916-F-01-030
- Source Water Protection Practices Bulletin: Managing Small-Scale Application of Pesticides to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water ( PDF 6 pp , 152 K ) EPA 816-F-01-031