The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) assessment of Pennsylvania's animal agriculture program acknowledges the need for continued commitment from all the stakeholders involved in conserving Pennsylvania's resources, noted the leaders of two Commonwealth agencies.
Reacting to EPA's assessment of Pennsylvania's animal agriculture regulations and programs, Acting Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley (DEP) and Acting Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding agreed that the report shines a light on opportunities for improvement and highlights the need for renewed focus on the Chesapeake Bay.
The assessment evaluated Pennsylvania's implementation of programs to reduce pollution going to waterways within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
"The fundamental message of the report is a point we already believe and are committed to," said Quigley. "We need to re-engage with all stakeholders to identify the most effective approaches that can be scaled up to achieve the goals set out in our Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). We've already begun a model watershed-based approach to assist farming operations to achieve voluntary compliance and correct water quality impacts through effective nutrient management plans."
Quigley noted that EPA's evaluation did not take into account revisions to its regulatory program and said Pennsylvania prefers to use voluntary approaches, but that DEP has and will continue to use enforcement as needed.
"This is an important conversation to have with the Chesapeake Bay milestone to be met just two years away," said Redding. "It's time for us to reset the conversation. While this report notes there is a need to do more, progress is being made and farmers are working to do the right thing. Our departments share a vision for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. When we have healthy, viable farms, we have a healthy, viable Bay Watershed. We can't have one without the other."
Redding added, "Pennsylvania farmers have long recognized the important link between healthy soils, sustainable farming practices, and the water quality of our waterways. Our nearly 40,000 farm families in the Bay watershed will continue to lead the way in implementing cost-effective agricultural conservation best management practices to improve both financial and environmental sustainability of our family farms and these waters.
Pennsylvania is one of the first of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed states to undergo this EPA evaluation. The assessment consisted of a questionnaire, file searches in two regional and four conservation districts offices, staff interviews, and a review of the department's website.