Beginning this month, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service will visit selected farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed for a hugely important Conservation Effects Assessment Project survey. That'll include farms in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
The CEAP survey will gather information from producers about farming and conservation practices on cultivated cropland. One reason is to gather more details about conservation practices voluntarily put into place on farms. This has been a boiling controversy between ag and environmental groups, and key to what happens on the regulatory front.
Agriculture insists that farmers do far more than given credit for. Environmentalists contend that's not the case.
"The 2011 CEAP survey is extremely important to all of the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed," says Ed Kee, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture. "It'll give us all a clearer, more factual picture of what has actually happened, and what's happening now, regarding agriculture and the Bay.
"CEAP provides the only scientific-based opportunity to document farmers' many voluntary as well as incentive-based conservation practices that should be included as part of any watershed improvement model as we move ahead to address water quality issues."
Kevin Pautler, NASS director of Pennsylvania's field office, encourages all farmers contacted to respond to the survey. "Your response will help provide a much needed complete picture of conservation practices in the Chesapeake Bay watershed."
The survey intends to illustrate the good work that farmers are already doing to conserve natural resources and protect soil and water. "Chesapeake Bay area farmers have continued to install many on-farm best management practices since NASS last conducted the CEAP survey in 2006," adds Pautler. The updated information is needed to document prevalence of all conservation practices and provide a basis for improving conservation planning, implementation and watershed management.
NASS survey staff will be calling on farmers over the next four months. In Delaware, 77 selected farmers will be visited, reports Chris Cadwallader, director of NASS's Delaware Field
field office. Encouraging farmers to respond, he says the results will document the good work farmers are already doing to conserve natural resources. It'll help better measure corresponding achievements in reducing the environmental impact to the Chesapeake Bay from agricultural lands.