June 11, 2010
Federal Stimulus Funds Aid
Ag Conservation and Water Quality
Adams County farmer's determination for conservation-oriented agriculture benefits environment and his bottom line
(ADAMS COUNTY, PA)—Two Adams County farms are benefitting from federal stimulus funds made available through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST), helping the farmers install conservation measures that will aid their farms' sustainability and profitability, while improving the water quality in the area.
"My wife and I started our 250-acre dairy farm in 2000. Today 'Circle Creek Holstein' has grown to a herd of 265. Our entire family is involved including our children Emily, Cody, Caleb, and Paige. We have invested our time and money in conservation efforts, but this program allows us to do even more to protect water quality. It's a good idea and a good program. Without it we would not be able to afford these improvements," said Terry Inch, owner of Circle Creek Holstein.
The Inch farm is one of 44 farms statewide receiving support to install conservation practices through a $14.2 million PENNVEST grant to Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). The money is an investment in farms in the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed that will pay off not only in terms of jobs created or retained, but in conservation that supports a better quality of life for area residents. CBF estimates the farm practices will avoid more than 838,000 pounds of nitrogen pollution, 286,000 pounds of phosphorus pollution, and 678 tons of sediment pollution.
The partners include the Inch family, Adams County Conservation District, PENNVEST, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
"We applaud PENNVEST's efforts to expand their funding to include fixes for non-point pollution sources like agriculture. It is typically far less expensive to reduce water pollution from non-point sources like agriculture than point sources like sewage treatment plants. Making limited public funds do more work is more important now than ever," says Matt Ehrhart, PA Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Working with the Adams County Conservation District, Mr. Inch is installing some major improvements, including replacing the outdated and potentially leaky wooden manure storage structure, originally built in 1981. The new concrete and steel structure will allow him to safely store the herd's manure until it can be appropriately applied. The barnyard area, currently bare soil, will be upgraded to a concrete pad to prevent soil and manure run off. A third conservation effort is the installation of over 3,000 feet of forested buffer along a stream running through the property. In time, this streamside forest will filter out pollutants, and increase the naturally functioning stream filtering processes.
"This funding is helping farms comply with increasing expectations for environmental protection," said Brian Sneeringer, Agriculture Team Leader for Adams County Conservation District. "Adams County and all areas downstream will benefit from this program and the projects implemented on site."
The majority of the funding provided for this project is from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more commonly known as federal stimulus funds. The forested buffers are funded through the USDA's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. The Inch family has also dedicated their own funds to the improvements.
"The changes taking place on the Inch farm are occurring many times over around the state. These changes will help Pennsylvania meet its commitments for improving water quality while boosting local economies," said Brion Johnson, PENNVEST's Deputy Executive Director for Project Management.
With years of experience partnering to aid farmers, CBF and the Adams County Conservation District are playing key roles in implementing the program. Johnson credits CBF and the District with "putting the stimulus money to work."
Back on the farm, Terry and his wife Jody have the satisfaction of knowing that they are doing their part to leave a legacy of stewardship for their children and many others.