Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) is urging farmers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to fill out a new survey that measures conservation practices implemented by farmers to improve water quality.  The survey asks farmers to provide information on all of the best management practices (BMPs) on their farms, including practices they have paid for without cost-share assistance from the federal government.

“Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed have doled out a lot of their own hard-earned money to pay for a wide variety of environmentally-friendly practices that improve water quality, but those efforts have not been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its calculations measuring nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reductions in the watershed,” said PFB President Rick Ebert.  “The goal of this survey is to document on-the-ground activities implemented by farmers so Pennsylvania agriculture gets the credit it deserves for reducing nutrients in the watershed.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has engaged Penn State University’s Survey Research Center (SRC) to administer the survey, which was developed collaboratively with various state agencies, Penn State, Farm Bureau and others in the agricultural community.  The SRC will begin sending out an initial pre-notification letter to farmers during the week of January 25-29.  The letter will include a unique code for each farm and a link to a secure website where farmers can fill out the survey. Farmers who have not filled out a survey online by the middle of February will be mailed a paper copy of the survey. The deadline to complete and submit the survey is April 30.

“We know that a significant number of farmers in the watershed have voluntarily installed riparian buffers, stream bank fencing, barnyard runoff controls and other measures to reduce runoff into waterways.  Many farmers also utilize conservation-friendly practices such as no-till and cover crops, which substantially reduce soil erosion and runoff into streams,” added Ebert.  “We’re hopeful that the information collected from the survey will provide DEP, and ultimately EPA, a more accurate assessment of what farmers are doing to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment into the watershed.”

According to Penn State, ten percent of the survey participants will be selected randomly for farm visits by Penn State Extension for verification purposes.  PFB notes that responses will be kept confidential and individual farm-specific information will not be shared with federal or state regulatory agencies.