WASHINGTON — Federal, state and private agencies in Pennsylvania are working together in new conservation efforts to further improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Two new projects, recently funded through the USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program, will allow the Chester County Conservation District and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to join efforts with USDA’s Natural resources Conservation Service and producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“We’re excited to work with our partners to expand our mission of conservation through strategic investment,” said NRCS State Conservationist Denise Coleman. “These partnerships will lead to cleaner, more abundant water for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, improved soil health, enhanced wildlife habitat and endangered species recovery and stronger rural economies.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Farmland Preservation will use an awarded $6.37 million to implement conservation practices and comprehensive nutrient management plans on preserved farms in Pennsylvania.
Through the “Implementing Conservation Practices and CNMPs on PA Preserved Farms” project, PDA and the Center for Dairy Excellence will identify agricultural producers to work with Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation planning staff to plan and implement comprehensive nutrient management plans. The highest priority will be given to farmland preservation program applicants who will complete conservation practices as part of an approved conservation plan. Second priority will include farms already preserved; third priority will include any farm located in the focus area regardless of farmland preservation status. This proposal builds on successful projects that invested in livestock manure management practices on farms in high-priority landscapes and will assist producers to ensure that livestock and crop production are compatible with natural resource protection.
“The guidelines make all of Pennsylvania’s current and future preserved farmland eligible for grants to implement best management practices,” said Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “The NRCS funding makes it possible to connect conservation stewardship, land stewardship and farm stewardship together in perpetuity.”
For the “Chester County Conservation District Partnership for Chesapeake Bay Water Quality project,” the Chester County Conservation District has been awarded $3.6 million to address a surplus in Farm Bill financial assistance applicants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed by working closely with NRCS and private agricultural consultants to develop plans and install conservation practices.
“As result of an increased demand for funding to implement BMPs in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the Chester County District is very excited to have been awarded funds through RCPP to supplement our traditional funding allocations to continue our mission of Conserving Soil for Clean Water,” said Chris Strohmaier, CCCD Managing Director.
Applicants will be given a higher score based on their willingness to implement or maintain a stream buffer and commitment to work with one or more of the listed partners to develop plans and/or best management practices. CCCD staff will conduct site visits with each landowner after the contract is complete to discuss continued operation and maintenance of their conservation practices and incentivize private consultants to assist in the contracting process by writing comprehensive nutrient management plans.
For additional information on these projects, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Bureau of Preservation or the Chester County Conservation District.
— USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service