AGRICULTURAL ADVISORY BOARD (AAB) MEETING
PPL Montour Preserve, Meeting House
April 16, 2008
David McElhaney, Vice Chairperson, called the meeting to order at 10:20 am.
Attendance – Members
Larry Breech, PA Farmers Union
Kristen Crawford, representing Senator Michael Brubaker, PA Senate Diane Hain, representing Representative Michael Hanna, Pa House Jennifer Harry, PA Farm Bureau
Jay Howes, representing Representative Art Hershey, PA House Barry Frantz, Natural Resources Conservation Service Betsy E. Huber, PA Grange
Keith Masser, Vegetable Producer
David McElhaney, Livestock Producer
Cathy Curran Myers, PA Department of Environmental Protection Walt Peechatka, PennAg
John Peters, Fruit Producer
Russell Redding, PA Department of Agriculture
Gerald Seyler, Grain Producer
William Wells Jr., Ornamental Horticulture
Thomas Williams, Dairy Producer
Agencies, Advisors, and Guests
Kristen Saache Blunk, Pennsylvania State University Robert Pardone Jr.
Dave Wise, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Rich Adams, Pam Bishop, Martin Friday, Robert Gibson, Marge Hughes, Dave Jostenski,
Jennifer Means, Frank Schneider, Gary Walters, PA Department of Environmental Protection
Mr. David McElhaney called the meeting to order.
Mr. McElhaney announced that the following members have asked to be excused:
Doug Beegle, the Pennsylvania State University
Jim Crawford, sustainable agriculture representative
Duane Hobbs, agriculture chemical manufacturer representative
Michael Firestine, chair person, agri-business representative
Roxanne Levan, USDA Farm Service Agency
Brenda Shambaugh, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts
Mr. McElhaney acknowledged two new members to the board. Mr. John Peters is appointed by the Governor to represent the Fruit Industry and Ms. Jennifer Harry is representing the PA Farm Bureau.
Everyone in the room introduced themselves. The minutes of the December 19, 2007 meeting were approved without amendments.
Agriculture Impaired Streams Update – Mr. Martin Friday, a water pollution biologist from
the DEP North Central Regional Office (NCRO), provided an update on agricultural impaired streams. Mr. Friday’s presentation built on the presentation that was given by Richard Shertzer
at the October 10, 2007 AAB meeting.
Mr. Friday explained the two areas that are looked at when doing a stream assessment. With the Systematic Watershed Survey, DEP identifies the land use and selects representative sites. With the rapid bioassessment, DEP does a biological evaluation and habitat assessment. He explained that the biological assessment is based on macroinvertebrate collections, habitat evaluation (12 variables scored), and stream condition. The stream is scored using the Index of Biological Integrity (IBI). If the IBI score is 63 or greater, the area is not impaired. Mr. Friday also discussed the IBI scores of the Chillisquaque Creek Watershed, which was toured in the afternoon.
Mr. Barry Frantz asked how to establish woody vegetation on a steep bank to control erosion, since it can become very expensive. Mr. Friday acknowledged that establishing vegetation on a steep bank can be an expensive challenge and that we may need to lay the bank down.
Mr. Tom Williams asked what could be done to solve the problem of streambanks falling into the stream. Mr. Friday explained that it could be expensive (lay the streambank back, placing stone, planting vegetation, big dollar restoration). Mr. Friday explained that we need to provide an area where the stream can flood (spread out), so we can slow down the velocity of the stream (natural stream design versus straighten the stream out).
Mr. Walt Peechatka asked whether streambank erosion or crop fields would be the bigger contributor of sediments and nutrients. Mr. Friday explained that he could not give a specific number or percentage because of seasonal influences. He thought that agriculture fields would play a major part in the winter/fall, while in the spring/summer, stream bank erosion would be a major contributor. Deputy Secretary Cathy Curran Myers also added that in the spring/summer, stormwater running off fields can cause problems with water quality and the velocity of the stream.
Mr. Larry Breech commented that in the Montour County area it is hard to infiltrate water into the ground since the ground is already saturated. No-till is hard to maintain since the groundwater table is so high. Mr. Breech noted that we need to find a way to infiltrate the stormwater back into the ground. He mentioned that much of the ground was converted to row crop production, while it should go back to some type of grass production. Mr. Breech mentioned that a possible switch to cellulosic ethanol may be good for this area, since this ground is better situated for biomass production (switch grass, etc.). Mr. Rich Adams mentioned that nutrient trading could also work well for this area.
Mr. Williams asked if the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) could design dams, etc., to mimic the natural flow of the stream. He wanted to know if our goal was to maintain agriculture or streams, noting that we need a balance of both, and stating that we cannot just get rid of agriculture. Mr. Friday acknowledged that check dams would be good but that we have to worry about the channel cutting into the banks. Deputy Secretary Myers mentioned that DEP does not want to reduce the role of agriculture or take land out of production, and suggested that cellulosic biofuels might be the answer.
Mr. Keith Masser asked about trees falling into streams after storm events and causing an erosion problem. Mr. Friday acknowledged that it can be a problem.
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) –Mr. Frantz, Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NRCS), and Mr. Dave Wise, Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), teamed up to give an update on the CREP to include the history, successes, and future of the program.
Mr. Frantz gave an overview of the CREP, including enrolled acres, the practices that were installed, payment summary, and current and future issues. Mr. Frantz also touched on water quality monitoring and some research that is being conducted.
Mr. Russell Redding asked if the rental rates could be adjusted. Mr. Frantz commented that the Farm Services Agency (FSA) periodically adjusted Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental rates and that CREP will follow. He also mentioned that the increases are slight (small scale).
Mr. Wise then presented on the CBF’s role in CREP, noting that it is solely based on forested
buffers. Mr. Wise mentioned that CBF has six full-time staff to assist landowners, stating that they work closely with NRCS and FSA. CBF also provides significant outreach to landowners along with research on methods and stream response.
CBF sees agriculture as the best land use (since we cannot convert back to forested areas) in terms of a key to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. It is estimated, although more research is needed, that a stream with forested buffers removes 2-8 times more nitrogen than grass buffers.
Mr. Wise then explained a map of the PA portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that showed all the different stream side practices that have been installed. The funding for the practices includes CBF’s Farm Stewardship Program, CREP, CRP and CBF’s Trees for Streams Program.
Mr. Wise also spoke about the need for better operation and maintenance of riparian forested buffers and the role that CBF has taken to assist. He thanked DEP and FSA for providing the additional funds for critical post planting care and spoke of the research that CBF and the Stroud Water Research Center have done to increase survivability of riparian forest plantings.
Mr. Breech commented that the public does not like to see tree tubes with dead trees. They see a disconnect in their tax dollars paying for a practice that does not result in survival. Mr. Wise acknowledged that survivability was an issue in the beginning and again referred to the research that was done on operation and maintenance and to the additional funding for post planting care that is being provided by DEP and FSA.
Mr. Williams commented on undesirable plants, such as bamboo, and asked if there will be an infringement of the undesirable plants on crop fields. Mr. Wise commented that noxious weeds are the landowner’s responsibility and that the agencies are working on controlling these issues with herbicides and mowing (relaxing some of the original rules).
Chapter 110 – Water Resources Planning Regulations –Mr. Dave Jostenski, Water Use
Planning Division, gave a presentation on the Chapter 110, Water Resources Planning Draft Final Regulations.
Mr. Jostenski noted additions, deletions, or changes made since the proposed regulations were open for comment in 2006. He also noted that of the registrations currently received, agricultural sources account for 12.6% or 1,100 registrations.
Mr. Frantz asked if an agricultural operation uses irrigation and withdraws more than 10,000 gallons, does it have to register regardless of where the withdrawal comes from (well, stream, lake, etc.). Mr. Jostenski answered yes, the operation would have to register regardless of the withdrawal source. The reason for this requirement is to allow us to properly allocate that amount of water to the agricultural industry.
Mr. Masser and Mr. William Wells asked if irrigators are going to have to purchase metering equipment to meet the reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Mr. Jostenski and Ms. Pam Bishop answered that if the withdrawal is over 50,000 gallons, the operation has three options. The options include: use metering equipment, apply for a waiver, or use another type of calculation that is scientifically proven and performance based. All three options should be within a 5-10% accuracy.
Mr. Williams commented that irrigators are recharging the water table and that the regulations should be easier on them regarding metering requirements. Mr. Williams also mentioned that farmers should get credit for the recharge. Deputy Secretary Myers answered that the Technical Assistance Center (which will be established) will work on determining recharge. Mr. Jostenski also added that recharge can be documented through reporting but that we cannot get 100% recharge due to several factors beyond our control.
Deputy Secretary Myers offered to consider language revisions to clarify the requirements for irrigators, and asked AAB members to provide suggested language to Frank Schneider. Mr. Redding commented that part of putting conservation measures into the regulations was to find a balance between use, recharge, and the amount of water that we actually have.
Kristen Saache Blunk, Pennsylvania State University, announced that the Agriculture and the Environment: Achieving Balance forum is to be held from June 1-3, 2008 in Harrisburg, PA. She passed out information and encouraged the AAB members to attend.
Mr. McElhaney adjourned the meeting at 12:25 p.m.
Mr. Martin Friday, a water pollution biologist from the NCRO, provided a tour of agricultural impaired streams for AAB members.