April 1, 2010
Bradford Farmers Seeing Green
Thanks to Stimulus Funds
Federal job creation money flows to local farms, helps bottom line as well as local creeks
(ROME, PA)—Six Bradford County farms are benefiting 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 quality of water in several county creeks.
"My family has worked this farm since 1887. You have to be resourceful to keep farming that long. I see this as another innovation that hopefully will allow me and my children and grandchildren to continue farming for another 100 years," said Jason Abell, owner of a beef farm near Rome, and one of those benefiting from the funding.
The Bradford farms are among 44 farms statewide being funded through a $14.2 million PENNVEST grant to the 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 and retained, but potentially in better fishing and other enjoyment of state creeks and rivers. CBF estimates the conservation practices will reduce more than 838,000 pounds of nitrogen pollution, 286,000 pounds of phosphorus pollution, and 678 tons of sediment pollution.
"We applaud PENNVEST's efforts to expand its funding to include fixes for non-point sources such as agriculture. It is typically far less expensive to reduce water pollution from non-point sources such as agriculture than from point sources such as sewage treatment plants. Making limited funds do more work is more important now than ever," said Matt Ehrhart, PA Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
The majority of funds are from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more commonly known as federal stimulus funds.
Partners on the project include the Abells, CBF, Bradford County Conservation District, PENNVEST, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
"The changes taking place on the Abell farm and on other Bradford County farms, are also occurring 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 Bradford County Conservation District are playing key roles in implementing the program. Johnson credits CBF and the District with "putting the stimulus money to work."
"Bradford County and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will reap the benefits of this program. Not only will it provide local jobs; this funding will help farms comply with increasing expectations for environmental protection," said Tony Liguori, agriculture team leader for Bradford County Conservation District.
The funds will help Abell make a fundamental transition on his farm: turning hay fields into pasture for rotational grazing. The conversion will help the environment, and Abell's profitability. Raising his beef on pasture rather than harvested hay, Abell will have less need for expensive farm machinery and oil-based fertilizer.
To date, cattle on the Abell farm have unrestricted access to a farm stream. Also, during the winter, livestock are fed bales near the stream. Both practices pose a risk of manure and sediment entering the stream. In addition to fencing for the changeover, the stimulus funds will pay for a concrete barnyard. This structure will provide a stabilized area far away from the stream for the cows to be fed in the winter months and also a temporary place to stockpile manure until conditions are suitable for spreading the manure as a valued fertilizer. Runoff from the barn roof will be captured and kept out of the barnyard to prevent manure washing out of the barnyard.
Additionally, funds from the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) will pay for native trees and shrubs to be planted along a stream on the Abell farm. The fenced area will act as a buffer to the livestock, and as the trees mature, they will add to the buffer's ability to keep pollutants from reaching the stream and multiply the stream's own ability to remove pollutants. Farms must buffer unforested streams on their properties to qualify for stimulus funds.