After U.S. EPA released its blistering evaluation of Pennsylvania's efforts to clean up animal agriculture's pollution portion to the Chesapeake Bay, the department secretaries of the commonwealth's two agencies in charge fired back with a rare public comment.
Reacting to EPA's assessment of Pennsylvania's animal agriculture regulations and programs, Acting Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley and Acting Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding agreed that the report shines a light on opportunities for improvement and highlights the need for renewed focus on the Chesapeake Bay.
"The fundamental message is a point we already believe and are committed to," said Quigley. "We need to re-engage with all stakeholders to identify the most effective approaches to scale up to achieve the goals set out in our Watershed Implementation Plan. We've already begun a model watershed-based approach to assist farming operations to achieve voluntary compliance and correct water quality impacts through effective nutrient management plans."
But EPA's evaluation didn't take into account revisions to its regulatory program, he added. Pennsylvania prefers to use voluntary approaches. But DEP would use enforcement as needed.
"It's time for us to reset the conversation," noted Redding. "While this report notes there's a need to do more, progress is being made. Farmers are working to do the right thing.
"Our departments share a vision for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. When we have healthy, viable farms, we have a healthy, viable Bay Watershed. We can't have one without the other."
And Redding added, "Pennsylvania farmers have long recognized the important link between healthy soils, sustainable farming practices, and the water quality of our waterways. Our nearly 40,000 farm families in the Bay watershed will continue to implement cost-effective conservation best management practices to improve financial and environmental sustainability of our family farms and these waters."
For more on Pennsylvania's animal agriculture program, visit www.dep.state.pa.us, click on the keyword: agriculture.