|Washington, D.C., March 21, 2011 —“Our region’s farmers manage nearly a third of the land in the Bay watershed so they have a significant role in maintaining and improving the environmental health of our natural resources,” said Jim Baird, Mid Atlantic States director for American Farmland Trust (AFT). “Sustaining the farms and keeping that cropland well managed is essential to improving the water quality of the Bay. Converting it to sprawling development is worse for water quality in the long run.”
The Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) Cropland Report released last week collected conservation data from farms in the region, made recommendations on the 4.3 million acres of Bay cropland, and found conservation practices implemented on about 96 percent of that land.
“The report documents that while improvements are widespread, the job is far from over,” Baird said. “Almost 20 percent of cropland needs a ‘high level’ of further measures, like erosion control or more efficient fertilizer management. If we focus our efforts on these acres, we’ll be able to achieve the greatest pollution reductions at the least cost.”
“The fact that the 700 farmers in the survey were willing to talk with researchers about what their farming practices are and where they can do better is significant,” said Baird. “We need to use the CEAP report to learn from the conservation successes, and come together to address the work that needs to be done. Achieving clean water will require well-funded, robust federal and state conservation programs, and, additional guidance for farmers to help them get these practices in place. The CEAP report gives farmers credit for what they have accomplished and a clear-eyed look where they and the public need to invest attention and resources to finish the job.”
American Farmland Trust and others will use the CEAP report to focus on developing the programs and policies where the conservation needs and rewards are greatest: improving program effectiveness, overcoming barriers to adoption, expanding guidance for farmers, and expanding markets for environmental services. These are the core focus of AFT’s field work and priorities for the up-coming farm bill.
AFT employs three key tools to address barriers to the adoption of on-farm conservation practices by lowering risks and compensating farmers adequately for the environmental services they provide: Ecosystem Services Markets, the BMP Challenge and Integrated Pest Management. More information about each of these tools is available at www.farmland.org.
As part of the CEAP, USDA used on-farm sampling, data from the National Resources Inventory, and modeling to determine the baseline conservation condition of the cropland in the Chesapeake Bay region. The resulting report, “Assessment of Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Chesapeake Bay Region,” is available at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/nri/ceap/chesapeake_bay/index.html
American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.
AFT's national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.