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Articles from 2011 In April


Pocahontas struck by flooding, Arkansas rivers swollen

“It looks like a sea with some trees sticking up out of it.”

That’s how Mike Andrews described Pocahontas, the northeast Arkansas city that has been overtaken by record high water from the Black River that curves through town.

Andrews, the Randolph County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said Friday that flooding had cut off the eastern part of town and was blocking U.S. highways 67 and 63, leaving U.S. 62 and routes to Missouri as the remaining main routes in and out of town.

Nearly everything has ground to a halt except rescues, water pumps and cleanup as the river slowly recedes. The Black River, whose bends and oxbows weave in and out of farm fields and woodlands, has covered everything.

“Farming is kind of second place right now,” he said. “Just trying to make sure everybody is safe is the first thing. They’ll worry about farming in a week or two.

“All of the businesses in east Pocahontas have water in them or water up around them where you can’t get to them. There are some houses in east Pocahontas, where water is up to the rooftops -- from floor to ceiling, full of water.”

And it’s not the just the Black River, the county is also experiencing flooding from the Eleven Point and Current rivers. “They’ve done a lot of damage too.”  

 

Andrews learned from aerial video taken by a local television station that on Randolph County farmers’ grain bins with thousands of bushels of rice, was taking on water.

“And there’s no telling how much equipment is under water. One of our 4-H families’ parents is a mechanic and he’s had a bunch of people calling to see what to do with tractors that are underwater.”

To the south, in Jackson County, Extension staff chair Randy Chlapecka said the swollen White River was receding, but “it’s going to be a slow go.

“All we can do is wait and see what happens to crops that were planted. Hopefully, we can get the water off and start over.”

In the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas, rapid-fire rains produced flooding that washed out roads, culverts and swept away fences.

“This morning I got a call from a guy who woke up with somebody else’s cattle all over his place,” said Robert Seay, Benton County Extension staff chair.

However, the rain and the cool air that moved in behind the storm fronts have helped.

“The pasture and hay situation has improved,” said Seay. “We had no subsoil moisture to speak of and even if we’d gotten normal rain, we’d be back in a drought pattern in June. We need subsoil moisture to get from June to the first of September. Needless to say, that’s been replenished.

“The moisture will trigger growth on the cool season forage, which is still our Number One pasture and hay volume acreage. It won’t pull totally out of a nose dive, but it’s better than our prospects two weeks ago or one week ago.”

For more information on crop production, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.

Update on Pioneer Hi-Bred's new Plenish high-oleic soybeans

Russ Sanders, director of DuPont enhanced oil venture, offers an overview of Pioneer Hi-Bred's Plenish soybeans. The new soybeans will be used in the growing market for high-oleic-acid soy oils, which are more stable at high cooking temperatures. The oils also are healthier than commodity soybean oil: they contain no trans fats and 20% less saturated fat than the commodity versions.

To see more videos, visit http://farmindustrynews.com/media/all/video .

Gas Prices Would be $4/gal. Without Ethanol

Gas Prices Would be $4/gal. Without Ethanol

 

Based upon current market conditions and federal renewable fuels policy, 10% ethanol blends (E10) are keeping gasoline prices 12¢/gal. cheaper than they otherwise would be. As AAA reports, the current average price for gasoline is $3.88/gal. nationwide. Without ethanol, gas prices would average $4/gal. nationally.

These savings do not take into account the downward pressure ethanol puts on the oil market by virtue of being 10% of the nation’s gasoline supply. Previous estimates of that impact show ethanol is keeping gasoline prices up to 60¢ lower/gal. than they otherwise would be.

Renewable Fuels Association Vice President of Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper has taken a snapshot look at ethanol and gasoline prices as they closed earlier this week. The key points of his analysis include:

  • April 27, 2011 closing prices for May futures had RBOB gasoline (the base gasoline used across the country) at $3.45/gal. and ethanol at $2.64/gal. – a difference of 81¢/gal. Over the past several weeks, ethanol has generally been priced 60-80¢/gal. below gasoline and the spread has averaged about 40¢/gal. since the beginning of the year.
  • Based purely on the current 81¢/gal. differential between gasoline and ethanol prices, drivers should be seeing E10 blends priced 8¢/gal. less than regular unleaded. Don’t forget that blenders are still receiving the 45¢/gal. tax credit for every gallon of ethanol they blend with gasoline, which equates to another 4.5¢/gal. for E10. Under the current dynamics, most – if not all – of the value of the tax credit should be making its way to the consumer.
  • When both the current price differential between gasoline and ethanol and the blender’s credit are considered, E10 should be about 12¢/gal. less than regular unleaded at the pump. That’s an annual savings of more than $100 for the average American household, which consumes about 900 gal. of gasoline yearly.
  • If E15 blends were widely available today (EPA approved the use of E15 for cars, pickups and SUVs from model year 2001 and newer early this year), drivers of the approved vehicles would see E15 priced 19¢/gal. less than regular unleaded.
  • It is important to recognize that these figures are based only on the current price spread and tax credit. Ethanol also impacts gasoline prices in the aggregate by substantially adding to the fuel supply. This effect grows as the supply of ethanol increases. Several economists have estimated that the ability of ethanol to extend fuel supplies, coupled with ethanol’s relative discount to gasoline, means gasoline is 40-60¢/gal. less than it would be without ethanol. The impact may be even larger than that in cases where oil prices are extremely high, as is the case today.
Applying Anhydrous Ammonia in Wet Soils

Applying Anhydrous Ammonia in Wet Soils

 

Wet soil conditions are causing concern for anhydrous ammonia application this spring, says Fabian Fernandez, University of Illinois Extension specialist in soil fertility and plant nutrition.

Anhydrous ammonia is the most widely used nitrogen fertilizer source in Illinois. In order for this fertilizer to be effective, good soil moisture conditions are necessary, Fernandez says.

Ideal soil conditions are around 15-20% moisture. Within these moisture levels, a fine-textured soil, such as silty clay loam, feels slightly moist.

"If pressed in the palm of your hands, it will form a weak ball with rough surfaces that crumble under pressure," he says. "It will not leave water stains on your hands."

When soils are slightly above or below the ideal moisture conditions, increasing application depth can reduce the risk of ammonia loss, Fernandez says. An adequate application depth under ideal moisture conditions is approximately 6 in. for fine-textured soils and 8 in. for coarser-textured soils or sandy soils.

For wet soils, increasing the application depth is not always sufficient to minimize ammonia losses, he says. When soils are too wet, the knife track might not seal properly, creating a direct conduit for ammonia to escape to the soil surface. Fernandez recommends using some type of device behind the knife to close the slot created by the knife.

"The best test to determine if a proper seal is obtained is to go back to the application zone and smell," he says. "If ammonia can be smelled for a while after the application, that's clear evidence that ammonia losses are occurring."

For more information on frequently asked questions about anhydrous ammonia, read the April 28 edition of The Bulletin.

Corps levee plan dismays Bootheel farmers

With the Army Corps of Engineers preparing to blow a levee and allow a surging Mississippi River to flood their acreage (and spare Cairo, Illinois, from flooding in the process), disheartened Bootheel farmers spent the last week of April scrambling to move as much as they could out of the potential flood zone.

On Wednesday, April 27, “Probably 80 percent of the farming equipment is out, and all that is left are a few homeowners who need to move their possessions,” said Kevin Mainord, mayor of East Prairie, Mo., who farms over 5,000 acres in, and near, the floodway. “Some homeowners are moving their possessions out but will stay at their residences until it’s evident that the levee will be either overtopped or degraded by the Corps.”

Mainord said if the Corps carried out the plan, as much as a third of the farmland in the area would not be farmed again. “A lot of the drainage would be filled with sand and sediment. It would take years to recover. It’s ridiculous during this time and age that we would be sacrificed to save someone else.”

Not surprisingly, that sentiment is common amongst Bootheel residents. Matt McCrate, who lives in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and works for Stuttgart, Ark.-based Stratton Seed, said anger and dismay are rampant.

“For my job, I work with agriculture retailers and farmers that do contract seed production who have land in the proposed flood zone,” said McCrate on Friday, April 29.

Earlier Friday, an attempt by the Missouri attorney general to thwart the Corps through federal court was unsuccessful.

“The Corps is still saying they’re watching the situation closely. As of this morning, they said if it hits 60.5 feet (in Cairo), that’s the point when they’d blow the levee. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) forecasts the crest at 60.5 feet this weekend.”

“I know the farmers are hoping if that level is hit, the Corps won’t blow it and sit tight to see if the river recedes. But the Corps can sometimes be inflexible.”

Like Mainord, McCrate said residents and farmers “are trying to get everything out. There are over 100 homes in that flood path. There are many, many shops — the farm operations are large, often run by second- and third-generation farmers. They’re unfamiliar with this since that levee hasn’t been breached since the 1930s.”

The farm ground that would be put deliberately underwater “is some of the best in Missouri. It’s isn’t poorly drained, swamp ground. This is silt loam soils, the type of ground that normally provides 200- to 250-bushel corn. Farmers typically run 70- to 90-bushel wheat there. They could be growing great cotton but the primary crops are now beans, corn and wheat.

“Basically, if they flood the 130,000-plus acres, it will wipe out half of Mississippi County and a third of New Madrid County. New Madrid County is right behind Mississippi County in agricultural receipts — among the top ag counties in the state.

“Think about it: in just soybeans alone, figure 50-bushel yields on 132,000 acres, and it would be a crop loss of $90 million.”

Most of the sandy loam ground in the floodway has already been planted in corn.

“The corn is in and up,” said McCrate. “Farmers could lose all that.

“There is tremendous acreage in wheat there, too. Many growers go with double-crop beans. In 2009, when there was paltry wheat acreage in the South, Mississippi County had a large wheat crop.

“Farmers practice high management for their wheat. They fertilize in the fall, a minimum of twice in the spring. They use fungicides and insecticides. It’s some of the highest managed wheat production in the Mid-South.”

Bootheel farmers “are extremely unhappy. The law (the Corps) is operating off was written in the late 1920s to protect Cairo, Illinois.”

At that time, Cairo "had a population over 40,000" and all the Bootheel floodway ground was in virgin timber. “Today, Cairo is a dying town of barely 3,000 people and the floodway has been cleared and it’s some of the best farm ground in the state of Missouri — flat, 200-, 300-, 400-acre fields. All of it is irrigated, almost all cut to grade, all extremely productive.”

What are farmers being told about possible recompense if their land is flooded?

“Most of the farmers carry insurance,” said McCrate. “Flood insurance is a separate rider, whether crop insurance or insurance to protect things like tanks.

“But farmers have been told by insurance adjustors that for their wheat and any corn that’s already up that, even though they’ve paid a premium, flood insurance will only protect them if it’s a ‘natural disaster.’ If it’s a ‘man-made disaster’ the insurance has no effect. So, all the farmers with flood insurance for their corn, beans, wheat — or grain in tanks — will be unprotected.

“Does the Corps understand that? This is not a good situation.”

And that doesn’t take into account the lost revenue in future years that the deluge would bring. The disastrous effect of the aftermath “is the biggest financial risk for that 130,000-plus acres. That ground normally would bring $4,000 to $6,000 per acre. That land could be decimated. If they allow that flood, a third to a half of that ground may never be farmed again.

“Who’s going to pay for that?”

Very few are paying attention to what’s happening with the affected Bootheel farmers, said McCrate. “Their ground, their homes, their grain bins, equipment they can’t move, will all go under. There are a tremendous number of pivots in the area and those cost $40,000 to $50,000 a piece. Farmers are trying to pull the motors off them and save those, at least. They’re trying to salvage what they can.”

President Obama signs H.R. 4 into law

President Obama signed into law H.R. 4, the “Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011,” which repeals the expansion of requirements for businesses to report information to the IRS on payments for goods of $600 or more annually to other businesses.

President Obama said, “…. I was pleased to take another step to relieve unnecessary burdens on small businesses by signing H.R. 4 into law. Small business owners are the engine of our economy and because Democrats and Republicans worked together, we can ensure they spend their time and resources creating jobs and growing their business, not filling out more paperwork.”

Earlier this month the Senate voted 87-12 to repeal the requirement after the House adopted the measure, 314-112, in March. Because the House and Senate approved identical legislation, the bill went to the President.

The Form 1099 provision was set to begin in 2012. The government planned to tax revenues reported on 1099 forms to raise money to fund health care reform.

Tornadoes' destruction brings agricultural loss

Tornadoes' destruction brings agricultural loss

The tornadoes of April 27 took a toll on Mississippi's agriculture, with timber, the state's No. 2 most valuable agricultural commodity, taking the biggest hit.
Massive storms have swept the state all month, bringing hail, torrential rains and tornadoes. Wednesday was the worst day, with the majority of the damage scattered across the northern part of the state.

Tornadoes and straight-line winds caused timber losses in Smith, Jasper, Newton, Clark, Monroe, Itawamba, Carroll, Holmes, Montgomery, Lafayette and possibly other counties. The Mississippi Forestry Commission conducted fly-overs Thursday and Friday to spot damaged areas. They will make more precise on-ground estimates of timber losses next.

Russell Bozeman, director of forest protection and forest information with the commission, said data collection is focusing on the timber near Taylor, Philadelphia, Smithville, Raleigh and Eupora, as these areas were among the hardest hit.

“The damage is so widespread that we don't have any estimates yet of dollar value or volume of timber lost,” Bozeman said. “We're still in the collection mode. It's taking a little longer than normal because there is so much damage over such a wide area.

“Instead of one big damage path for us to find and fly over, now it's taking us 48 hours just to get the GPS data in,” he said.
Grady Dixon, an assistant professor of geosciences at Mississippi State University, said the bulk of the storms battered areas of the state north of Interstate 20 and east of Interstate 55.

“April is always an active month for tornadoes, especially in the Southeast,” Dixon said. “It is not surprising that we have a lot of tornadoes, but we have broken the 60-year record.”

April's previous record was 267 tornadoes in the country, set in 1974. More than 300 tornadoes have been recorded this April. Dixon said the rise in the number of people having cell phones with cameras has increased the number of tornadoes reported in recent years.

“The number of tornadoes going up isn't alarming,” Dixon said. “We look at how many days with tornadoes we have. It would start to be alarming if the conditions were ripe for tornadoes on more days than ever before.”

The current record for April is 23 days with tornadoes across the country. There have been 20 days with tornadoes this month.
Localized heavy rain and hail caused other damage in places.

Don Respess, Coahoma County Extension director, said a line of hail caused damage across Quitman and Coahoma counties on Wednesday.
“Corn was beat up pretty badly, but I think it will be all right,” Respess said. “The wheat concerns me. At the growth stage it's in now, hail could be devastating to that crop.”

An initial examination of fields across his area of the north Delta showed some completely destroyed wheat fields, but Respess said the damage to wheat was not widespread.

About 40 center-pivot irrigation systems in the Clarksdale area were damaged by storms, a number Respess called significant.
Erick Larson, Extension Service grain crops agronomist, said emerged corn is susceptible to physical damage from hail, but it doesn't mean it will kill the plants or cause yield loss.

“Before the corn reaches about 12 inches tall, the growing point remains under the soil surface and protected from physical damage. Corn can continue developing new leaves if there are favorable growing conditions that promote a quick recovery,” Larson said.

By late April, most of the state's corn was less than 18 inches tall, but wheat will be ready to harvest by late May. Headed and fully developed wheat is very susceptible to hail damage.

“It is completely exposed, and hail will not only strip vegetation off but break the stems very readily,” Larson said. “A broken stem causes the kernels to stop filling and it can lay over so the combine can no longer harvest the damaged heads.”

Jerry Singleton, Extension agricultural agent in Leflore County, said his area had limited wind damage when some small tornadoes hit Wednesday.
“The only real damage to fields was in how much debris they left scattered,” Singleton said.

'Smart' orchard sprayers reduce pesticide use, protect waterways

'Smart' orchard sprayers reduce pesticide use, protect waterways

Technology that allows orchard sprayers to skip the space between trees can protect the environment while saving growers money.

The idea is simple: when orchards receive dormant and in-season sprays of agricultural chemicals, the spray should only fall on the trees where it is needed, rather than on the ground, where it is not.

Orchard sprayers can be retrofit with target sensors that activate spray nozzles only when a tree is present.

A review of research on this “smart” sprayer technology, published in the April-June 2011 issue of the University of California’s California Agriculture journal, found that the financial and environmental benefits of the technology are substantial.

“By reducing the application rate of the pesticide mix, each tank load of material covers a greater land area, effectively reducing the number or refills, ferry trips and time spent spraying each orchard,” wrote author Durham Giles, UC Davis professor of biological and agricultural engineering, in California Agriculture. “This provides additional economic return to growers by reducing labor and fuel costs.”

Based on field tests, the authors estimated that reductions in pesticide and operating costs with smart-sprayer technology ranged from $58 per acre for peaches grown in the San Joaquin Valley to $31 per acre for prunes grown in the Sacramento Valley.

At the same time, reductions in the total amounts of pesticide sprayed ranged from 15 percent for a mature prune orchard near Chico, to 22 percent for a mature almond orchard near Modesto, to 40 percent for a younger (more open) prune orchard near Oroville.

The trees themselves received the same amount of pesticide in the smart-sprayed orchards, but a lot less pesticide ended up on the ground than in the control. “For the almond and more open prune orchards, the reductions were 79 percent and 59 percent, respectively,” Giles and colleagues wrote.

Likewise, when the amount of pesticide in water running off from the younger prune orchard was measured, the reduction was 54 percent in the smart-sprayed orchard compared to the control.

Despite its obvious benefits, the study authors noted that “use of the smart-spray technology is growing but remains a small part of the spraying equipment market.” The retrofit spray sensor and control equipment cost about $15,000, with an estimated payback period of 2 years or less, given documented cost reductions.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) can provide up to $30 per acre for a total of $15,000 per contract when the new equipment provides a 20 percent reduction in spray, which as been documented in peer-reviewed research such as the California Agriculture article.

“The amount is sufficient to adequately cover the cost of purchasing a typical target-sensing system for an orchard sprayer,” the authors note in California Agriculture journal.

Janet Byron is the managing editor of California Agriculture journal. Her original post can be read at the UC Green Blog site.

EPA’s Clean Water Act guidelines cause concern

The possibility of federal government regulation of ditches and farm ponds has led the National Corn Growers Association to be concerned about the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s recently announced guidelines for determining federal waters that are jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act.

“The proposed guidelines are worrisome to our farmers as federal agencies could have the authority to regulate ditches and ponds,” NCGA President Bart Schott, a grower from Kulm, N.D. said.  “The announced guidelines have the potential to expand federal jurisdiction in a way that could lead to additional permitting requirements and make famers more vulnerable to citizen action lawsuits.”

According to the agencies, the draft guidance was developed to clarify the scope of protections under the law following two complex Supreme Court decisions over the past decade. While the guidance maintains existing exemptions for normal farming and ranching activities, NCGA remains concerned that the new proposal could expand EPA’s authority over isolated waters including ditches and farm ponds, Schott said.  NCGA believes states should have the authority to regulate waters and that specific definition between state and federal jurisdictions are important.

Although the proposed guidelines do not have the full force and effect of law, regulatory decisions could still have an impact.  NCGA joins with several other agriculture and environmental groups to request the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers initiate a formal rulemaking process on this matter to ensure transparency and public participation.

“Corn growers are dependent on clean water for our livelihood and for our homes, and we are committed to conservation practices that protect our nation’s streams and rivers,” Schott said.

“Since the guidelines are still in draft form, we hope to have the opportunity to provide feedback to the Agency and the Corps about our concerns and find common solutions.”

EPA enforces nutrient load limits in Chesapeake Bay watershed

EPA enforces nutrient load limits in Chesapeake Bay watershed

The EPA is putting crop and livestock producers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area on a pollution diet. The EPA announced on December 29 last year that it is enforcing Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to help improve water quality.

Environmental experts are speculating the approach used in the Chesapeake Bay could eventually be applied to other U.S. watersheds. “The reason we need to watch both the TMDL and what is going on in the Chesapeake Bay is because EPA has clearly signaled us that this may be coming to a watershed near you. If it is successful, it could be applied to the Mississippi Basin, for example,” says Tim Jones, senior counsel for Tyson Foods, Springdale, AR. “EPA has said they are using the Chesapeake Bay as a test case.”

 

Plans to reduce pollution

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL guidelines identify limits and reductions for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. According to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Chesapeake Bay watershed covers about 68,500 square miles encompassing an area including parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Different EPA jurisdiction areas in those states are following detailed plans to reduce pollution within each area. The TMDL is made up of “wasteloads” listed from point sources, including large animal-feeding operations, and non-point sources, such as polluted rainfall runoff from agricultural lands.

State legislation is among the methods that will be used to fund wastewater treatment plant upgrades, urban storm water management systems, and agricultural programs, specifically in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Pennsylvania plans to dramatically increase enforcement of state requirements for agriculture and commit state funding to develop and implement technologies for converting animal manure into energy for farms. Regulators in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and New York are considering implementation of mandatory programs for agriculture by 2013 if plans for pollution reductions fall behind schedule.

 

Excess nutrients

Livestock producers who do not follow specific management guidelines will be subject to enforcement actions and penalties. Douglas Beegle, Penn State agronomist specializing in nutrient management, says livestock producers in the area are being encouraged to have nutrient management plans and follow best management practices, such as the use of no-till methods and planting cover crops. “Most of what is called for in our TMDL is based on good management recommendations, and we will continue to make some progress, but we won’t solve the bigger problem unless we figure out a sustainable way for our farmers to deal with excess nutrients in the watershed,” he explains.

Beegle says Pennsylvania’s livestock producers had been making steady progress while working to reduce the amount of nutrients going into the Chesapeake Bay, but the question of how to deal with excess manure nutrients is a difficult challenge for the state’s producers.

“We import feed, mostly from the Midwest. Because there are not as many crops grown here, the manure nutrients tend to accumulate on the farms and don’t go back into crop production. This is driven by global economic forces and there is no good, simple, economic answer to this challenge. We either have to find alternative uses for the excess nutrients and get the manure off the land and back to someplace else, change the structure of the production systems so that excesses are not created in the first place, or figure out some other sustainable way to deal with the imbalances in the system.”

TMDL requirements call for a 25% reduction in nitrogen, 24% reduction in phosphorus and 20% reduction in sediment in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The TMDL, which sets Chesapeake Bay watershed limits of 185.9 million lbs. of nitrogen, 12.5 million lbs. of phosphorus and 6.45 billion lbs. of sediment per year, is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures intended to fully restore the bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) sets an overarching environmental goal that all waters in the United States be “fishable” and “swimmable.” The CWA requires jurisdictions to develop an EPA-approved list of waterways that are impaired by pollutants and consequently do not meet water-quality standards. A TMDL plan is required for those waterways identified on the impaired list.

Most of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal waters are listed as impaired because of excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, leading to algae blooms that can prove harmful to aquatic life.  President Obama issued an executive order in May 2009 directing the federal government to lead a renewed effort to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. According to the EPA, the Chesapeake Bay TMDL plan is a key commitment in the strategy developed by federal agencies to meet the President’s executive order.

 

Voluntary practices

According to the NRCS, agricultural land makes up less than 30% of the Chesapeake Bay watershed area. A recent multiagency USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) made an effort to quantify the environmental effects of conservation practices in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area. The project did not specifically investigate livestock operations but targeted conservation approaches being used on cropland. The CEAP results showed farmers have been making good progress in reducing sediment, nutrient and pesticide losses from farm fields through conservation practices throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

Dave White, chief of the USDA NRCS, says the study confirms that voluntary, incentives-based conservation approaches are delivering significant and proven results. Most cropland acres in the area have structural or management practices, or both, in place to control erosion. Nearly half of the cropland acres are protected by one or more practices such as use of buffers or terraces. Reduced tillage is used in some form on 88% of the cropland.

The study also shows opportunities to improve conservation practices to reduce nitrogen in subsurface flows. The CEAP report indicates suites of practices such as soil erosion control and appropriate rate, form, timing and method of nutrient application could help address soil erosion, nutrient runoff and nitrogen leaching concerns.

Some agricultural experts contend that discrepancies exist between the nutrient levels cited by the EPA and the USDA data. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) have joined in a lawsuit against EPA for its implementation of a TMDL plan in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. PFB and AFBF assert that the EPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act to establish the TMDL limits and that the science used by EPA to create the model  used to develop the TMDL plan is flawed.

“Aside from exceeding its authority, EPA has failed to account for many best management practices that significantly reduce runoff into Pennsylvania streams and the Chesapeake Bay,” says PFB President Carl T. Shaffer. “By ignoring the real amount of no-till farming cover crops used by Pennsylvania farmers, EPA’s model underestimates the on-the-ground action taken by farmers and overestimates the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment coming from farms.

“Farmers have already played a major role in helping to improve water in Pennsylvania that flows into the bay and will continue to do so regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.”