Farmers Make Progress in Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Reductions
In a recent meeting with managers and chairmen from the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, Governor O’Malley personally introduced an exciting, innovative, and user-friendly web site, “BayStat”. The Governor’s concerns for the problems facing Chesapeake Bay led to his active involvement in the development and design of this web site. BayStat contains inter-active pie charts that identify and quantify the sources of major Bay pollutants. Its line graphs measure and compare the progress of specific water quality improvement efforts to the targeted Bay restoration goals. The information presented on BayStat proves to be both powerful and enlightening.
The Governor is to be commended for bringing this new tool to fruition- despite the current economic down-turn and Maryland’s own budget shortfalls. While some may think this is a non-essential product, the Soil Conservation Districts view it as money well-spent. BayStat will serve as an important tool that enables agencies and industries to gage their progress and the success of their programs. Important adjustments in conservation and management programs can be made in a timely fashion to ensure targeted restoration goals are reached. Ultimately, saving in tax-payer dollars will be realized when money is spent only on those programs proven to have positive results.
It is encouraging to see from BayStat’s charts and graphs that 10 out of 13 agricultural conservation programs are making progress in approaching their nitrogen, phosphorus, and sedimentation goals. When looking at nitrogen inputs from agricultural lands since 2006, farmers have reduced their contribution by approximately 332,000 pounds of nitrogen per year. In that same time frame, nitrogen inputs from urban contributors have increased an average of 902,000 pounds. Although five agricultural conservation practices have nearly reached, or exceeded, their goals, there remain some areas which need improvement and work to be done. With the recent announcements and commitments to improving the health of the Bay at both the state and federal levels, we are optimistic that progress will be so that the reductions realized by agriculture will not be offset by increases in urban loading.
As a group whose mission is to work for continual conservation, improvement and protection of our natural resources, we hope these commitments and priorities are focused in areas impacting the Chesapeake Bay the most. Citizens of the Bay watershed are continually informed that agriculture is responsible for the largest portion of the Bay’s pollution, but review of the new BayStat web site reveals the following: Maryland Agriculture contributes only 35% of the Bay’s nitrogen pollution and 41% of its phosphorus pollution, whereas the combined effects of development- wastewater treatment plants and stormwater- contribute 57% of the Bay’s nitrogen pollution and 57% of its phosphorus. The agricultural community can take great pride in knowing that their conservation efforts are yielding positive results and are reducing their percentage even further.
There is still improvement to be made within the agricultural community, but the interactive graphs on the BayStat site shows most of our goals are close to being accomplished while urban inputs are moving away from the goals that protect the Chesapeake Bay. The agricultural community takes this problem seriously, as do both the Obama and O’Malley administrations, and we hope the stakeholder agencies, as well as the public, use this great new tool to focus and prioritize efforts where they are needed and not where they are easiest. We will continue to do our part to meet the Bay’s restoration goals and only hope good science and its data are used to focus fairly on all the Bay’s contributors.
President Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts
410-956-5771 (MASCD office)