CBF and partners work with farmers to install conservation projects, like this cattle crossing, throughout the region. Photo by Matt Kofroth.Through the Buffer Bonus program, CBF and partners work with farmers to install conservation projects, like this cattle crossing. Photo by Matt Kofroth.

Buffer Bonus Program Helps Farmers Improve Local Water Quality—and Their Bottom Line

CBF and partners work with farmers and landowners throughout the region to implement conservation projects that will improve water quality and enhance farm profitability. Much of the work focuses on farm best management practices (BMPs). Currently available in a limited number of Pennsylvania counties, CBF's Buffer Bonus program encourages farmers to couple the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) forest buffers with these kinds of on-farm improvements. For each acre of forest buffer planted, CBF offers participating farmers a "best management practice voucher" to fund conservation work.

Improvements that qualify under the Buffer Bonus program include rotational grazing practices, streambank fencing, alternative watering systems, and laneways. Other options include the installation of waste transfer lines for milk-house waste and silage leachate, stabilization of access roads, and the installation of roof gutters, to name a few.

Another goal of this program is to provide, at no cost to the farmer, a new or updated Conservation and Nutrient Management Plan. By combining this plan with an engineer's evaluation of the farm (also provided) the plans are then considered a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan or a CNMP. Having a CNMP gives farmers the opportunity to apply for federal funding to assist with larger on-farm improvements such as manure storage facilities and concrete barnyards.

Buffer Bonus Results

In Bradford County, 36 farmers have already participated in the program. In just two years, through the Buffer Bonus program, $1.6 million has been invested in best management practices that have resulted in nearly 200 completed projects. These projects also brought those farms into full compliance with state required conservation and manure management plans.

In Lancaster County, Amish and Mennonite farmers are also reducing pollution by installing conservation projects and planting streamside forested buffers. In just two years another $1.6 million investment has resulted in nearly 300 completed projects, bringing 41 farms into full compliance with state required conservation and manure management plans.

"These conservation improvements are a win-win for both the farmer and local water quality," said Jennifer Johns, CBF Buffer Specialist in Bradford County. "While each project ultimately produces different results, we find that creating healthier living conditions for the livestock through the installation of conservation practices improves herd health and the farmer's bottom line."

You may also be interested in:
  • Federal Court Ruling Affirms Chesapeake Bay Blueprint On September 13, 2013, Pennsylvania Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo ruled that the EPA, working with the states, has the authority to set science-based pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Reducing Phosphorus Pollution in Maryland Phosphorus is one of the three major pollutants affecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Land where manure is applied has, on average, three times more phosphorus runoff than land not receiving manure. As part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, Maryland is required to reduce phosphorus pollution 48 percent by 2025.
  • Federal Court Ruling Affirms Chesapeake Bay Blueprint Pennsylvania Federal Judge Sylvia Rambo today issued a ruling upholding Bay clean-up efforts, and rejecting the arguments of the Farm Bureau, the National Association of Home Builders, and other big agriculture interests. The ruling affirmed that EPA, working with the states, has the authority to set science-based pollution limits.
  • Maryland Grazers Network The Maryland Grazers Network is a mentorship program that pairs experienced livestock, dairy, sheep, and poultry producers with farmers who want to learn new grazing skills.
  • CBF Calls on Senator Casey to Continue Steadfast Support for PA Farmers and Vital Funding Programs CBF calls for the House to pass a meaningful five-year Farm Bill that addresses drought relief and the needs of Pennsylvania farmers, including continued conservation funding.
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