HARRISBURG, Pa. — The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Mid-Atlantic 4R Nutrient Stewardship Association, a non-profit organization whose members include the Delaware-Maryland 4R Alliance and the Pennsylvania 4R Alliance. The memorandum formalizes the partners’ intent to collaboratively develop crop production and conservation systems based in the principles of the 4R nutrient stewardship framework and assist farmers implementing these systems.
The 4R nutrient stewardship framework is an innovative approach for fertilizer and nutrient best management practices that considers the economic, social and environmental dimensions of nutrient management. The concept is simple — apply the right source of nutrient at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place — but the implementation is knowledge-intensive and site specific. Implementation of 4R systems will increase nutrient use efficiency and reduce nutrient laden runoff entering nearby waterways. Agriculture plays a critical role in improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary. The partners agree improved nutrient management based on the principles of the 4Rs is essential to sustainability of agricultural systems.
NRCS will continue to provide technical and financial assistance to farmers for improving soil health, nutrient management, and water quality, as well as collaborate with Mid-Atlantic 4R members on communications and training opportunities for agribusinesses, NRCS staff, and private landowners. Mid-Atlantic 4R members will support NRCS efforts by developing conservation plans with farmers that incorporate environmentally and economically beneficial practices. Implementation of these conservation plans will lead to positive environmental outcomes in the Chesapeake and Delaware Watersheds.
“NRCS has a long history of successfully working with state and local partners to help farmers meet their production and natural resource conservation goals,” said Denise Coleman, State Conservationist for NRCS in Pennsylvania. “Partnering with agribusinesses in local communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic region will expand the delivery of technical services and financial assistance and increase the sustainability of farming operations while conserving natural resources for future generations living in one of the most densely populated and productive landscapes on the planet.”
“This partnership will help advance efforts to meet water quality goals in the Chesapeake Bay and implement State Watershed Implementation Plans,” said Bill Angstadt, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Mid-Atlantic 4R Nutrient Stewardship Association. “By working together, private businesses and NRCS will accelerate the implementation of advanced nutrient management 4R practices to benefit local farmers and waterways.”
The members of Mid-Atlantic 4R have already communicated with tens of thousands of farmers throughout the region via 4R outreach events, technology field days, presentations and advertising. So far, over 13,000 acres of farmland in the mid-Atlantic region have been enrolled in the 4R-focused NRCS programs through multi-year contracts in which farmers have committed to using precision agriculture practices that will also help protect local watersheds. The new partnership between NRCS and Mid-Atlantic 4R is intended to accelerate all these efforts.
“We are excited to be part of the 4R Alliances across the Chesapeake to work with agribusinesses, researchers, and government agencies to increase the implementation of 4R practices that will meet our clean water and habitat goals,” said Amy Jacobs, Director of Agriculture for The Nature Conservancy in Maryland. “Private agribusinesses and NRCS are key players to provide the needed support to farmers to try and adopt the latest technology and 4R practices at a scale that will have a direct improvement on the Bay’s water quality.”
In addition to The Nature Conservancy, the PA 4R Alliance steering committee members include Rosetree Consulting, Growmark FS, NRCS, State Conservation Commission, PA Farm Bureau, PennAg Industries, Timac Agro, Syngenta, Koch Agronomic Services and Chemgro.
The steering committee members for the DE-MD 4R Alliance include The Nature Conservancy, Growmark FS, Delaware Department of Agriculture, DE-MD Agribusiness Association, University of Maryland Extension, and Maryland Farm Bureau.
— USDA NRCS