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Farmers and Landowners Are Doing Their Part to Improve Water Quality

By Denise Coleman, State Conservationist

Saucony CreekDrive across Pennsylvania or fly overhead and you will see evidence of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) work on the state’s landscape.

Conservation practices such as streamside buffers, restored wetlands, contour strips, and fields planted with protective cover are just a few visible signs of the agency’s work in our state.

NRCS conservationists in Pennsylvania work with farmers, private forest landowners, and local soil and water conservation districts to plan and install conservation practices. NRCS offers more than 170 individual practices and suites of practices that can be used to improve soil health, water quality, air quality and wildlife habitat. When planning these practices, NRCS staff works to help producers maintain or improve agricultural productivity.

As the nation celebrates National Water Quality Month in August, NRCS in Pennsylvania salutes the conservation-minded farmers and private forest landowners who do their part daily to improve water quality and other natural resources on their operations. The impacts of their water quality efforts are significant and rewarding. We are fortunate to have clean, safe water for drinking and for agriculture, recreation and other purposes in Pennsylvania and we appreciate your efforts.

Agriculture can and does play a critical role in improving water quality and other natural resources in our state. Because nearly 84 percent of the land is privately owned in Pennsylvania, considerable water quality and other natural resource improvements will be achieved by farmers, and private forest landowners as they make conservation decisions every day.

NRCS and its partners are committed to helping producers find suitable solutions to their natural resource challenges, such as water quality impairment. In many regions of the nation, NRCS offers technical and financial assistance in high-priority watersheds identified by local communities and applicable state agencies.

For instance, the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) targets small watersheds with the highest potential for water quality improvements. Its Great Lakes Restoration Initiative targets producers in select watersheds in the states surrounding the Great Lakes — Huron, Superior, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario. NRCS staff works with farmers and landowners to combat invasive species, protect watersheds and shorelines from non-point source pollution, and to restore wetlands in these select watersheds.  In Kutztown, Pennsylvania, community conservation efforts, supported through NWQI, have improved drinking water for more than 14,000 nearby residents. Read more here.

Our success in improving water quality in Pennsylvania rests with our producers and I am confident they will continue to do their part. For many farmers, investing resources in environmental resources is a tradition that goes back generations.

But we need more producers to include conservation as part of their operation. Producers who are interested in learning how to integrate conservation into their operation, can visit USDA’s website for more information about NRCS conservation offerings.



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