Agriculture is the #1 industry in Blair County, and farmers therefore play an important role in protecting local water quality. Many substances found on most farms – pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste and soil, for example – soak into groundwater supplies, or are picked up by rainfall and carried into nearby streams and rivers if not managed correctly. Implementing best management practices (BMPs) that improve water quality on your farm benefits more than just the wildlife, people, and communities downstream. These practices will also improve the health of your livestock, soil, and crops, and can improve efficiency and lower long-term costs. No farm is too small to make a difference.
Installing fences that exclude your livestock from streams reduces erosion via trampling, keeps manure out of the streams, and prevents livestock from drinking contaminated water. Implementing no-till and cover crop practices help retain soil and necessary nutrients on site when there would otherwise be no crops in the ground. Installing a forest buffer along a creek or stream is one of the most effective ways to reduce soil and nutrient loads reaching the water. Making sure your Manure and Nutrient Management Plans are both up-to-date and implemented are excellent steps to help meet regulations and improve water quality.
When implementing BMPs and “going green”, consider how you can market your efforts to wholesale buyers, or even directly to consumers. The “clean eating” movement is gaining momentum, and more shoppers are seeking out (and paying more) for food produced in an environmentally responsible manner. Interested? There are a number of government and non-profit assistance programs that work with farmers to install these practices on their farms. Start with the resources below for more information.
Blair County Spotlight
The Blair County Conservation District provides technical and financial assistance to Blair County farmers wishing to install BMPs. They are also dedicated to farmland preservation and public relations.
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), administered by the Farm Service Agency under USDA, pays farmers an annual rental rate for removing sensitive land from production.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), administered by NRCS under USDA, provides financial and technical assistance to farmers nationwide to install conservation practices on farms.