Massanutten Reg. Gvnrs. School / Newcomer
Society needs to eat, plain and simple, and while we are
attempting to clean up the Bay and
protect our natural resources, we also need to take into
consideration the fact that farmers and
landholders need some sort of protection as well. We
are necessary to society as suppliers of
the nation’s food and contributors to our national
economy. Modern agricultural operations are
producing up to 100 times more than farmers did 50
years ago. There are 185 million
livestock animals in the watershed, which is 11 times
the human population. These livestock
produce about 44 million tons of manure annually. Most
of this manure is spread as fertilizers,
but with advances in new technology we may be able find
new ways to use manure. While only
2% of the population is directly involved in the
production of food, agriculture provides a lot
of jobs to the national economy. We rely on a good
water supply and productive soils to
produce food, which is why we also support the endeavor
of cleaning the Chesapeake Bay and
protecting our waterways. However, there are limits to
what we as a group can do with the
resources we have. We as a cooperative effort want to
reduce nutrient and sediment pollution
from our pastures and croplands and still remain
profitable. It will take a cooperative effort
from many stakeholders to accomplish our goals. Instead
of wasting time blaming other groups
for the problem that everyone has had a part in causing,
we need to work together to fix it.
Many of our nutrient and sediment problems originate
from waste management and from
pasture and cropland runoff. As an industry we need to
work to improve the water quality, as it
directly and indirectly affects us in many ways. There
are many simple ways that we can
begin to improve the water quality on our farms at home
by implementing best management
practices (BMP). BMPs are techniques can be used on
both rural and urban lands to improve
water quality and the profitability of the landowner.
On our fields we use many different
fertilizers to achieve high yields, but if used
incorrectly these fertilizers can be very harmful
to the rivers and lead to eutrophication.
Eutrophication is when excess fertilizers cause algal
blooms. These algal blooms block sunlight and after
death bacteria use up the oxygen to
decompose them. One BMP that we as farmers and
landowners can implement to filter out
chemicals and nutrients is a riparian buffer strip. This
entails planting trees or shrubs along
the edges of streams and waterways. The roots absorb
excess nutrients and catch sediments
before they reach the water. Alternative water sources
for livestock can also be placed in
pastures to enable farmers to fence livestock out of
streams. These methods in themselves
cannot save our bay and we must continue to find new
ways to protect our water quality.
Another harmful effect of runoff is the large amounts of
sediment that can wash into the
water from exposed fields. One way to reduce this is by
using a cover crop. In this method we
can plant crops such as winter wheat, barley, or rye
that can trap sediments and slow erosion.
These crops can also be harvested for forage in the
spring. Research has also found that
feeding lower levels of nitrogen and phosphorus to
livestock can reduce the amount of these
nutrients in the waste.
Recently, research has been conducted to find new waste
management techniques that can
reduce denitrification and find new uses for waste.
Denitrification is the release of nitrogen
into the air, decreasing the effectiveness of the
fertilizer. By covering manure pits, methane
can be harvested and used as a fuel source. This
procedure also decreases the amount of
methane, a serious greenhouse gas, released directly
into the atmosphere. Also, a separator
can divide the manure solids from the liquids, which can
be applied to crops. The solids can be
sold as a growing medium or used to add organic matter
to soils. However, these solid
separators and manure digesters are only economically
feasible on large farms or in areas
where many small farms can transport manure to a central
location. Transporting manure,
however, can lead to high fuels costs and concerns about
bio-security on participating farms.
These BMPs will not make any difference unless a large
amount of farmers and landowners
decide to implement them. We can find ways to educate
and inform farmers about what we can
do to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay such as having
annual or biannual meetings and
educational trips to the Chesapeake Bay so that we can
see first hand what we are working to
accomplish. As landowners and farmers we can implement
BMPs that reduce nutrient and
sediment runoff on agricultural land and help to
increase profitability on farming operations.
The cost of these BMPs can be partially funded by cost
share programs supported by the
government and the Soil and Water Conservation
District. The cost share limit in $50,000 and
low cost loans are available through the Department of
Environmental Quality at 3% interest
on a minimum of $5,000. The government has proposed in
the 2007 Farm Bill to increase
conservation funding by $7.8 billion and provide $500
million for bio-energy technology;
while this funding has been proposed on a national
level, it does not provide for section-based
financial support for areas like the Chesapeake Bay
Watershed. Those involved in the Bay
cleanup need to make their point known to their
congressmen so that the Bay will be a specific
concern when they decide on the distribution of the
The Chesapeake Bay is important for recreation, fishing,
and industry. We realize we have
had a part in causing the decline of our water quality
but are not solely responsible. We need
to work collectively with other stakeholders to achieve
our goals of reducing nutrient and
sediment pollution. If this can be done, these issues
will be resolved at a much faster rate then
if we were to work alone.
CBF's FARM BILL STRATEGY.
y. 2 March 2007.
Cost Share Programs. http://www.dof.virginia.gov/mgt/cip-summary.shtml.
2 March 2007.
Dollar, Christopher D, ed. Save the Bay. Annapolis, MD:
Chesapeake Bay Foundation,
Ask this stakeholder a
Thoughtful Question or Respond
Fishing and Boating Industries (F.B.I.) Massanutten Reg.
Gvnrs. School /
When you talk about denitrification, how is methane used
as fuel healthier for the
environment than the methane released directly into the
atmosphere from the cows?
Isn't it eventually released into the atmosphere anyway?
I agree that the annual meetings would be a great way to
inform the farmers on the
BMP's. Are you going to inform the farmers about the
grant money they can recieve at
Fishing and Boating Industries (F.B.I.)
Massanutten Reg. Gvnrs. School /
Methane released as a greenhouse gas is worse than the
carbon dioxide that is released
when methane is burned. Also, burning the methane that
would be wasted is better than
burning diesel fuel or gasoline.
Yes, we were planning to inform farmers about the grant
money at these meetings.
Farmers and Landowners Cooperative Massanutten
Reg. Gvnrs. School /
Referring to the comment made by FBI:
I agree with your comment that Maryland is not self
sufficient in their food production.
There are not many states that don't rely some on the
food production of other states.
Comment from the Moderator. Your
point about most food production not being local
is correct and important. When making
decisions on protecting the Bay, to what extent
should you also consider the importance of
maintaining the capacity to grow food locally
(even if much of our food currently comes from
far far away). Once good farmland is used
to "grow" houses, you can't go back to growing
food. Is that a good idea? Does that
make us - as a society - more or less secure?
If the answer is less secure, how to you ensure
that good farmland stays in, or available for,
agriculture? People farm because they love
to farm, but a lot of the farmer groups on this
page exhibit frustration at being told they are
"the problem" and being told what to do.
How do you keep them from throwing up their
hands in frustration and selling off that good
farmland for more money than they would ever
make farming? If you want to respond
to this post, please put "to Moderator" at the
top of the TQ.