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Farms and the Bay

Nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment are major nonpoint source pollutants in Pennsylvania’s streams, rivers, and lakes. In large quantities, they choke out underwater plants and deprive fish and other aquatic life of oxygen, harming our local waters as well as the Bay, resulting in human health, environmental, and economic damage.

Agriculture is a main contributor of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. In fact, Pennsylvania is responsible for fully 69 percent of the nitrogen reduction the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires for the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. With more than 33,000 arms in our 43 counties in the watershed, agriculture is responsible for 80 percent of that reduction. Residential, golf course, and other use of fertilizers carried by stormwater runoff account for a large part of the remainder.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the farming community in the Pennsylvania counties in the Bay watershed are partnering with DEP to tackle the problem of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution in our local waters while keeping a healthy agricultural economy.

  • With funding and technical guidance provided by DEP, many farmers are planning and implementing best management practices, such as better manure management and vegetated stream buffers, to reduce these pollutants.
  • Many farmers have initiated and implemented best management practices at their own cost.
  • Still other farmers are using sustainable practices to reduce these pollutants, such as no-till farming (PDF), which creates additional economic benefits to reduce these pollutants.
  • The farming community is also working at the highest level with DEP and a variety of diverse partners on implementing Phase 3 of Pennsylvania’s plan for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, along and with Penn State University and other partners to identify innovative solutions to help maintain vibrant and productive agriculture while also meeting the water quality goals.

Farm in PA with a red barn