EDITORIAL: USDA funding would help farmers clean bay
Imagine 28 blue whales in the Susquehanna River.
Or 19 single-story, brick houses.
How about the British Navy landing ship Sir Galahad, built in 1966 and sunk during the Falklands operations in 1982.
Would you believe 261 cruise ship anchors? How about 3,270 polar bears, bull moose or Asian elephants.
These each weigh about 3,270 tons, or 6.54 million pounds.
That's also the amount of nitrogen pollution generated by the farms in York County each year.
And the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says that's too much.
The foundation has called on five Pennsylvania counties, including York, to reduce the amount of pollution they send from farms into the Chesapeake Bay each year.
“While other bay states are making progress in achieving their Clean Water Blueprint pollution-reduction goals, Pennsylvania is far behind in meeting its commitments,” said CBF President William Baker in a news release.
The CBF wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to funnel $20 million to initiatives to decrease the amount of agricultural pollution created in Lancaster, York, Franklin, Cumberland and Adams counties. Those initiatives include such methods as streamside buffers, which along with cutting nitrogen pollution also cut phosphorus and sediment, which can degrade local streams, harm aquatic life and cause risks to human health and drinking water, the CBF says.
The foundation would also like to do things like testing farm soil to find the optimal level of fertilizer, insuring farmers don't overfertilize — and saving farmers money, by the way.
"This is about expanding the good work that has been done in the areas already," said Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania executive director. "Other counties still need to do their fair share of work, but to rapidly get us back on track, we think an investment in these areas will do the most good in the shortest period of time and with the least amount of money."
The CBF estimates that if the five priority counties meet their goals for the 2025 Clean Water Blueprint pollution-reduction goals, that would cut the amount of nitrogen pollution annually by 14.1 million pounds, nearly half the 30 million pounds it's estimated the counties produce each year.
Plus, the foundation estimates Pennsylvania would see a $6.2 billion boost annually from cleaner water and air, improved flood and hurricane protection and better recreational activities.
York County needs to get its 2,000 farms covering 250,000 acres of land on board.
Local farmers have said they are willing to cut back their pollution, but they often don't have the means to build streamside barriers or have their soil tested and retested. Funding from the USDA would take away any reason they have to not do what is needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay.
Cleaning up the bay, and the waters that run from our homes toward the bay, should be a priority anyone can get behind.