The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Hershey Co. on Tuesday pledged $2 million to support Pennsylvania dairy farmers in adopting environmentally friendly practices, part of a larger conservation effort to protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
They made the announcement at Central Manor Dairy in Manor Township, a 200-cow operation that has been a member of Land O’Lakes (and its predecessor) since 1943.
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, in collaboration with Land O’Lakes, Inc., will use the funding as part of the ongoing “Sustainable Dairy PA” initiative that the agency and the two companies first launched in 2021.
Sustainable Dairy PA participating farmers work with the Alliance to establish best practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve Chesapeake Bay watershed water quality. At launch, the initiative prioritized 119 Land O’Lakes member-owner farms in central Pennsylvania that ship 50% or more of their milk supply to Hershey. Land O’Lakes operates as a member-owned cooperative, representing more than 1,000 farms across the U.S.
Jenna Mitchell Beckett, Pennsylvania director and agriculture program director for the Alliance, told the Capital-Star that the Sustainable Dairy PA program is voluntary for farmers who want to participate.
“The $2M funding from Hershey and EPA will help Land O’Lakes member farms accelerate their sustainability efforts by investing with them in the implementation of manure storage facilities, soil health practices, riparian forest buffers and other efforts to enhance sustainability on farms supplying to Hershey,” Beckett said in an email, “which builds farm resilience, improves water quality, and reduces emissions.” The Sustainable Dairy PA model focuses on all parts of the supply chain working together, she added, rather than the farmers managing everything themselves.
The EPA is supplying $1 million of the new round of funding, with Hershey providing a matching $1 million. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will administer the portion of the funds provided from EPA to the Alliance, the EPA said.
Since 2018, the Alliance has worked to develop agriculture supply chain programs, with an eye toward improving the member farms’ long-term sustainability, improving soil health, and overall efficiencies.
A report released earlier this year by the Chesapeake Bay Program found that pollution reduction efforts by states in the watershed were “more challenging than expected.”
Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia are responsible for around 90% of the Chesapeake Bay’s pollution, and according to a 2022 report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, while the states were on track to meet their 2025 commitments for reducing pollution from wastewater, agriculture or urban and suburban runoff pollution reduction efforts lagged behind.
“States are not on track to reduce pollution to the levels needed for a healthy Bay, or implement the practices necessary to achieve them by the 2025 deadline,” according to the 2022 State of the Blueprint Report.
Under the terms of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, New York, and the District of Columbia have to reach specific milestones in pollution reduction.
The dairy industry is responsible for roughly 2% of the U.S.’ greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
“EPA’s funding commitment to Hershey, Land O’Lakes, and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay brings $2 million of much-needed support to Pennsylvania dairy farmers to scale up conservation practices that are good for our farms, climate, local streams, and the Bay,” EPA regional administrator Adam Ortiz said. “With this funding, we are not only investing in the current environment, but into the long-term viability of Pennsylvania farmers – our frontline environmentalists.”
By Kim Lyons