(Posted Mon. Dec 9th, 2013)

Dec. 9: Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service released its highly anticipated Conservation Effects Assessment Program report outlining the extent of conservation adoption and corresponding water quality benefits within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  The report, which contains very good news for the agriculture industry, shows how farmers have adopted a record number of voluntary conservation practices on cultivated cropland, leading to significant environmental improvements. 


The CEAP report, based on National Agricultural Statistics Service data collected from a sampling of farms from 2009 through 2011, includes the results of more than 900 surveys collected by USDA to model basin wide outcomes. This report builds upon the initial CEAP publication, released in 2006, and shows the impact of voluntary conservation measures. Notably, the data from the newly released report shows major water quality improvements during a period in which the region also saw an expansion in corn production.


“The data outlined in this report further shows how America’s farmers have chosen to undertake a broad variety of effective conservation practices,” said National Corn Growers Association Production and Stewardship Action Team Chair Don Glenn. “We are producing more food while at the same time achieving a cleaner Chesapeake Bay. The natural resources that we leave behind are truly an extension of how we maintain our legacy of family farming as well as our gift to future generations. While some may emphasize a need for regulations that dictate agricultural practices, America’s farmers already work tirelessly to find innovative, effective practices that yield real environmental benefits.”


Most of the data collected for the CEAP report is prior to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalizing its Total Maximum Daily Load regulation for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The results point to the effectiveness of voluntary, incentive-based programs rather than heavy handed regulatory requirements.


The CEAP report outlined a number of dramatic improvements including:


  • In just five years, farmers in the watershed decreased sediment loss by 60 percent, nitrogen loss by 26 percent and phosphorus loss by 46 percent. 


  • Approximately 97 percent of farmland now has some kind of erosion control practice in place, such as conservation tillage. 


  • The adoption of cover crops skyrocketed in the five year period, increasing from 12 percent of acres in 2006 to 52 percent of acres in 2011. 


  • The 2006 CEAP report showed that 19 percent of farmland had a high need for conservation treatment.  That figured dropped dramatically to just only 4 percent in 2011. 


To view the full report, click here