EPA warns Pennsylvania it is coming up short in making sure farmers have anti-runoff plans

  • Monday, 16 March 2015
  • lancasteronline.com

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Posted: Monday, March 16, 2015 4:43 p

By AD CRABLE | Staff Writer



Pennsylvania is not doing enough to make sure farmers have required on-the-farm plans to control manure and soil erosion, the federal Environmental Protection Agency says.

In addition, EPA warned that “additional state policies and programs are likely to be necessary for implementing agricultural conservation practices that reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.”

EPA has had several crackdowns on Plain Sect farmers in Lancaster County.

Responding to the stern report, Pennsylvania’s environmental protection and agriculture secretaries issued a statement saying, “The report shines a light on opportunities for improvement and highlights the need for renewed focus on the Chesapeake Bay.”

EPA’s review of Pennsylvania’s animal agriculture programs was prompted by Pennsylvania not meeting its nutrient-reduction targets in 2013 as well as a 2010 court settlement with environmental groups that had sued EPA for not moving fast enough to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Four other states and the District of Columbia also are having reviews done.

The report was not all critical. EPA said Pennsylvania has “robust and well-implemented” programs dealing with farms with large concentrations of livestock.

But, the assessment continues, “for the remaining 80 to 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s animal agriculture operations, EPA’s assessment found that the Commonwealth is lacking a strong compliance assurance program to achieve full compliance with its Manure Management Program and Agriculture Erosion and Sediment Control Program that cover these operations.”

The report says Pennsylvania’s anticipated reductions in all sectors, including sewage reductions, in 2014-15 would keep it on track to meet the state’s 2017 target to remove 60 percent of the soil and phosphorus pollutants.

But nitrogen reductions would be “substantially behind schedule,” the study says.

EPA promised  to assist Pennsylvania in developing programs, policies and resources to make certain the state meets its commitments to clean up the Bay.

The study makes clear that stemming runoff on the nearly 22,000 farms in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Bay watershed is a linchpin in federal efforts to clean up the Bay.

It says Pennsylvania controlling its agricultural runoff of nutrients and soil “is not only essential to achieving Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay (reductions), but is essential for the overall Bay restoration.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, one of the groups that sued EPA, praised the report.

“DEP should be commended for its recent efforts to accelerate farm compliance,” said the foundation’s Pennsylvania director, Harry Campbell. “But Pennsylvania lacks an achievable strategy to ensure all farms are meeting our clean water laws.

“Changing the culture towards compliance requires meaningful resources to support Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation District staff, as well as the technical design and implementation of the necessary conservation practices.

“Without these changes, compliance rates will remain low and the Commonwealth will fail on its clean water commitments at a huge cost to society.”

DEP Acting Secretary John Quigley said of the report, “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. We’ver 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 added that Pennsylvania prefers to use voluntary approaches, but that DEP has and will continue to use enforcement as needed.

Acting Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said, “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.”


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