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Ebert gives update of efforts in Bay survey
By DOROTHY NOBLE
HERSHEY, Pa. (Nov. 22, 2016) — At the 66th annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, president Rick Ebert discussed the positive results of the recent survey on farmer activities toward improving the Chesapeake Bay and urged working with the new administration on numerous issues facing agriculture.
Obviously pleased with the results of the survey of conservation and best management practices farmers initiated without government funds and cost sharing, Ebert said preliminary findings indicated considerable land improvement and reduced runoff has and will continue to occur.
The survey was undertaken to determine the extent of practices put in place that would not have been considered in the Environmental Protection Agency’s model of the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment entering the Chesapeake Bay.
Hopeful that EPA will adjust its model, Ebert reminded his audience that EPA has acknowledged flaws in the model. “The problem in the EPA model is that it only used federal funds,” Ebert said.
Consequently, the role Pennsylvania farmers are playing to reduce the pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has been understated.
The survey, which was conducted by Penn State’s Survey Research Center on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, identified significant numbers that involved manure management and conservation plans, and manure storage and barnyard runoff projects.
Ebert noted that the survey had an exceptionally high—35 percent—response rate. Moreover, ten percent of responses had been inspected for validity.
When inspected, some of the improvements had actually been underreported in the paperwork.
The survey is presently undergoing a final review by a firm hired by EPA. When completed, it will be released and made available to the public.
Ebert pointed out, “Farmers are the first environmentalists. Without more land and water they really can’t farm.”
Yet, farmers know more needs to be done to meet the total maximum daily load reductions in the Bay.
While federal and state officials need to recognize the agriculture community’s actions, Ebert noted, “They also need to refocus efforts to provide adequate financial resources to further address the problem.”
He added, “One area everyone seems to agree on is that Pennsylvania agriculture has been grossly underfunded in its effort to further improve the watershed.”
Turning to other issues, Ebert said, “I’m looking forward to working with the Trump administration and Congress.”
Ebert said that throughout the presidential campaign, Trump promised farmers they would have a seat on the table on key agriculture issues. Ebert noted, “The President-elect talked about regulatory reform, including eliminating the Waters of the United States rule, addressing farm labor and immigration to recognize the unique challenges faced by the farming community and promoting a pro-agriculture administration that will provide opportunities for farm families to prosper.”
One issue of disagreement, however, is the Trans-Pacific Partnership designed to open new markets with 11 other countries.
Ebert noted that in Pennsylvania alone, TPP was expected to increase cash receipts for farm families by $177 million per year and net exports by $101 million per year.
“We will work with the Trump administration to ensure they understand how trade agreements like the TPP will benefit American farmers and the U.S. economy,” Ebert added.
New programs, too, could create opportunities.
Ebert advised his members to “Grow our influence.” He urged reaching out to the newer commodities and activities such as craft breweries, farm to table events, etc., and bringing new faces into national and legislative committees. “No matter what size, commodity or growing practices, bring them into the Farm Bureau,” Ebert said.