2011-09-29 / Front Page

FCCD To Begin Outreach To Ag Community

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Starting in October, Fulton County Conservation District staff will initiate an outreach effort and begin conducting site visits on farms in Fulton County. These outreach visits are a component of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan and are designed to increase awareness of the current regulatory requirements among the agricultural community.

Who is regulated? For the purposes of this farm visit effort, if you are plowing or tilling more than 5,000 square feet, and/or have an animal heavy use area (i.e., barnyards, feedlots, loafing areas, exercise lots, etc.) and/or are land applying manure either by equipment or direct application by your animals, your farm falls under these regulatory requirements, regardless of size. It is also important to understand that even if someone else farms your land, as the landowner, you are ultimately responsible for what happens on your land.

Erosion & Sediment Control Requirements: There have been agricultural erosion and sediment control requirements in place in Pennsylvania since 1972. These regulations require that a written plan, referred to as an Agricultural Erosion & Sediment Control (E&S) Plan, must be prepared and put into practice to reduce erosion when plowing and tilling (including no-till cropping) and from heavy use areas such as barnyards, feedlots, loafing areas, exercise lots, etc. A Conservation Plan that meets the state regulatory requirements, often prepared with the help of the Natural Resources

Conservation Service (NRCS), may be used in place of an Agricultural E&S Plan.

Manure Management Requirements: Since 1986, Pennsylvania’s Manure Management Manual has provided information on the environmentally sound ways to handle animal manure. A written plan, referred to as a Manure Management Plan, must be prepared and put into practice to deal with the manure generated on your farm. Whether you land apply manure with a piece of equipment or your animals apply it to the land directly on pastures or in heavy use areas, you are required by law to have this plan.

Recognizing that these regulatory requirements are not universally known within the agricultural community, this outreach effort is an attempt to address this concern. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has asked conservation districts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to assist in educating agricultural landowners and/or operators about what their regulatory obligations are. Conservation District staff must visit all farms in Fulton County by 2016. These visits are for educational purposes only and are not farm inspections. Conservation District staff will be describing what is required for anyone who owns farmland or actively farms to be in compliance with the state regulations.

Compliance with these requirements is important, as more than 5,484 miles of Pennsylvania waterways are impaired because of agricultural impacts. Agricul- ture is listed as the most significant source of pollution from Pennsylvania to the Chesapeake Bay. Several streams in Fulton County have been identified by DEP as being “ag-impaired.”

The Conservation District views these farm visits as an opportunity to reach out and work with the local agricultural community. Reducing soil erosion and better utilization of manure are not only good for local streams and the Chesapeake Bay, but offer opportunities to save money and improve the production of your farm. District staff are available to answer questions or concerns regarding these regulatory programs, provide informational materials on the requirements and provide options for technical and financial assistance that are available to support Fulton County farmers as they address environmental concerns. In addition to the farm visits, the Conservation District will mail out postcards and will run a series of half-page advertisements in The Fulton County News as part of the outreach effort.

While the district has selected specific areas in which to begin farm visits, if you would like a visit from district staff to discuss what is required for your operation to be in compliance, please contact us. Anyone interested in information about or assistance with developing an Agricultural Erosion & Sediment Control Plan and/or a Manure Management Plan is encouraged to contact the Conservation District.

For more information, contact the Fulton County Conservation District at 717-485-3547, Ext. 4.

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