NEWS YOU CAN USE  ~  SEPTEMBER 9, 2020
A monthly collection of recent news, upcoming events, and articles of interest
Alliance News
Alliance Board is Looking for Feedback on Winter Plans
As Alliance members know, for the past several years we have sponsored two winter soil health meetings. Now, with the new world of COVID restrictions, your board is considering a number of options for the winter of 2020-21. They don’t want to lose the momentum established over recent years, but also want to ensure the safety of our members and comply with PA government restrictions on indoor events. With that in mind, they want to pose several questions to members and sponsors:

Do you see value in a “virtual” event and would you participate? If there were to be a virtual event:

  • Would you prefer to have several sessions over different days or have them clustered on one day?
  • When would be most convenient — early winter (December)? January? Later?
  • What topics could be most effectively addressed virtually?

Should we wait and see if and when the virus-related restrictions are modified and possibly enable an in-person event in late winter?

Other suggestions you might have?

Please provide feedback to any board member (contact information shown below) or to administrative coordinator Jay Howes at jhowes@pennag.com.
No-Till Alliance Joins with PennAg in Urging EPA to Take Prompt Action on Dicamba
The No-Till Alliance and our administrative partner PennAg Industries Association recently wrote to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging EPA to expeditiously issue an administrative order allowing for dicamba use in the 2021 growing season. In particular the letter the noted the value to farmers of dicamba for weed control of herbicide resistant weeds when employing important conservation practices such as no-till and cover crops.
Ag Articles of Interest
DEP Proposes Changes to CAFO Permit
You have until September 14 to submit comments to DEP on their proposed changes to the CAFO documents. This link provides the documents to review. 

Commentators are encouraged to submit comments using the department's eComment tool. Written comments should be submitted to ecomment@pa.gov or to the Department of Environmental Protection, Policy Office, Rachel Carson State Office Building, P.O. Box 2063, Harrisburg, PA 17105.
PA Agriculture to be Celebrated Virtually for 2021 PA Farm Show
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding has announced that Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry will be celebrated virtually for the 2021 PA Farm Show, with no in-person events or competitions, to mitigate against COVID-19.

The department announced the theme for the 2021 virtual PA Farm Show to be Cultivating Tomorrow. Details of the virtual show will be announced as they unfold over the coming weeks. Virtual events will be focused on education and awareness for both the general public and the agriculture industry.

Stay tuned as the Alliance works through this change and seeks to be involved in any conservation and soil health focused aspects of the “virtual” Farm Show.
National Farmer Survey Documents a Wide Range of Cover Crop Benefits as Acreage Continues to Expand
The 2019-2020 National Cover Crop Survey, conducted by the nonprofit Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), with financial support from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and others was recently released by SARE.

Despite the crippling rainfall that significantly delayed planting across much of the country in 2019, more than 90% of farmers participating in a national cover crop survey reported that cover crops allowed them to plant earlier or at the same time as non-cover-cropped fields. Among those who had “planted green,” seeding cash crops into growing cover crops, 54% said the practice helped them plant earlier than on other fields.

The 2019-2020 survey, which included perspectives from 1,172 farmers representing every state, was the first by SARE to include detailed exploration of planting green—a tactic employed by 52% of the respondents—as well as crop insurance use among cover croppers and the impact of cover crops on the profitability of horticultural operations.

“Many U.S. farmers have turned to cover crops as part of their strategy to improve soil health while reducing input costs and maintaining yields,” stated Mike Smith, who managed the national survey. Survey participants averaged 465 acres in cover crops in 2019, an increase of 38% in four years. The USDA Census of Agriculture found a 50% increase in cover crop acreage over the five-year period between 2012 and 2017.

 “Farmers are using cover crops for a variety of reasons and many have tried new approaches to cover cropping,” Smith said. “This year’s survey also indicated that some of the concerns that many growers have had about the effects of cover crops on planting dates in a wet year turned out not to be true—in fact, in many cases, cover crops helped farmers plant earlier in the very wet spring of 2019.”

According to Rob Myers, Regional Director of Extension Programs for North Central SARE, “many farmers are finding that cover crops improve the resiliency of their soil, and the longer they use cover crops, the greater the yield increases and cost savings that are reported by producers.”

Among the 1,172 farmers who provided responses in the 2019-2020 National Cover Crop Survey, 81% were commodity producers (corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, etc.) and 19% categorized themselves as horticultural producers.

A full report is available free online at https://www.sare.org/news/2020-cover-crop-survey-report/.
Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Inspections Program Phase 2
Agricultural compliance is one of the top priority initiatives in Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan. CBAIP first launched in 2016 and there are two phases of inspections. 

  • Phase 1 inspections ensure that farmers have their required manure management and/or erosion and sediment control plans.

  • Phase 2 focuses on progress farmers are making in installing the BMPs specified in the plans. 

In Phase 2, staff from Lancaster, Chester, and Adams County Conservation District offices will visit some of these farms in their counties to verify that agricultural plans remain consistent with the current conditions of the farm and BMPs specified in the plans are being implemented on schedule. Barnyard runoff controls, fencing, and grassed waterways, terraces, and diversions are examples of typical BMPs. When needed, the program offers funding to offset the cost of BMPs and helps farmers get them underway quickly. 

DEP encourages farms in these three counties that were inspected during Phase 1 to reach out to their County Conservation District for more information about this funding program.

Lancaster, Chester and Adams counties were selected for the CBAIP Phase 2 funding program on the basis of their Conservation Districts’ engagement in Phase 1, the availability of technical staff to prioritize and assist with BMP implementation, and the extent of nutrient and sediment runoff on farms in these counties.

DEP regional staff will also conduct Phase 2 inspections in other southcentral counties and will refer farmers to their County Conservation Districts and private consultants, as needed, for assistance with installing BMPs. 

Farmers may combine DEP funding with Conservation Excellence Grants (see below) and Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) tax credits available through the Department of Agriculture, as well as other public grants and private funding.
The Conservation Excellence Grant Program
The purpose of the Conservation Excellence Grant Program (CEG Program) is to provide financial and technical assistance for the implementation of best management practices (BMPs) on agricultural operations in high-priority locations within the Commonwealth through grants, loans and tax credits, or a combination of all three.

The CEG Program is administered by the State Conservation Commission. Applicants can apply for a CEG Program grant at their County Conservation District.

A single grant awarded by the conservation district to an eligible applicant may not exceed $250,000. Small grants are also available for any BMP project under $25,000. Grants will be awarded based on priority criteria established by law and Commission guidelines.

CEG Program Priority Criteria

Priority locations as follows and in this order:
  1. Tier 1 (Lancaster and York)
  2. Tier 2 (Bedford, Centre, Cumberland, Franklin and Lebanon) and Tier 3 (Adams, Bradford, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry, Schuylkill, Snyder, Susquehanna and Tioga)
  3. All Other Counties
 
Priority BMPs as follows (in no particular order):
  • Livestock exclusion fencing.
  • Stream-side buffers.
  • Streambank restoration.
  • Barnyard and feedlot runoff abatement.
  • Stream crossings.
  • Off-stream watering.
  • Manure storage facilities.
  • Nutrient management plans and manure management plans.
  • Conservation plans or agricultural erosion and sedimentation plans.
  • Cover crops.
  • Any other priority practices approved by the Commission.

Eligible CEG Project Costs
  • Project design engineering and associated planning
  • Project construction or installation – including labor provided by the applicant
  • Equipment, materials and other components of eligible projects
  • Post construction inspections
Thank You Alliance Sponsors
Gold Sponsors
Lancaster Farming
MM Weaver and Sons
Stroud Water Research Center

Silver Sponsors
AgChoice and Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit
DuPont Pioneer
Gro-Mor Plant Food, Inc.
Melvin Weaver & Sons

Bronze Sponsors
American Dairy Association North East
Bayer CropScience
Fulton Bank
King's AgriSeeds
PA Grain Processing, LLC
Univest Financial Corporation

Sponsor
Bottom Line Ag Supply
Hostetter Grain, Inc.
Rosetree Consulting
The Mill
TIMAC USA
Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance
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