USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has awarded special funding for a Chesapeake Bay Foundation partnership project. Its aim is to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases on farms in Lancaster and Chester counties.
The funding will support a joint CBF-Environmental Defense Fund Conservation Innovation Grant to more efficiently apply nutrients reduce air and water pollution potential. The grant is one of nine projects nationally eligible for $10 million of extra funding.
The dollars will be available via the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to farmers in those counties who are interested in using enhanced nutrient management approaches. That includes soil and plant testing to help apply nutrients only where they are most needed.
Resulting fertilizer reductions will decrease potential nitrogen runoff into streams and rivers. It also cuts air emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. The purpose of this CIS project is to quantify these reductions and determine whether the greenhouse gas benefits could be sold as carbon offset credits.
EQIP funding can be used to help offset farmers' costs to implement various enhanced nutrient management methods. Applications will be accepted on a continual basis. But NRCS encourages eligible farmers to apply on or before February 15, 2013 to be considered for priority funding in this project in fiscal year 2013.
"Enabling farmers to make better decisions about fertilizer use promises to take conservation to the next level with benefits for farmers and the environment," notes Denise Coleman, State Conservationist for NRCS in Pennsylvania. "Applying the right amount of nitrogen in the right place at the right time will help increase yields and reduce fertilizer costs while leading to water quality improvements."
Beth McGee, CBF water quality scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, adds, "We also expect reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. With possible shrinking federal support for conservation programs, we hope the project will ultimately facilitate Chesapeake region farmers' participation and financial gain from the sale of carbon offset credits."
Setting stage for carbon credit
This project builds on a partnership between CBF, Washington Gas Energy Services and Sterling Planet. The latter companies contribute to a carbon reduction fund managed by CBF, and triggered by the sale of WGES CleanSteps Carbon offsets.
To date, WGES and Sterling Planet have contributed more than $400,000 to the fund. Those monies are used to fund projects, primarily with agricultural producers. The goal is to generate carbon offset credits and reduce Chesapeake Bay pollution.
Chester and Lancaster County farmers wanting more information should contact Chris Sigmund of Team Ag at (717) 721-6795, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chester county farmers who want more information about EQIP funding and application process may contact Beth Sassaman at the Chester County NRCS office at (610) 696-0398, or email email@example.com.
Lancaster county farmers can call Heather Grove at the Lancaster NRCS office at (717) 299-5361 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.