The goal of this program is to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff from farms. This is accomplished by the installation of Best Management Practices (BMPs). The traditional BMPs include but are not limited to the collection and storage of manure in a manure pit, collecting and diverting barn roof runoff from feedlots, installing water diversions, and installing livestock exclusionary fencing. The Chesapeake Bay Program was initiated in Pennsylvania in 1985, and adopted in Berks County in 1990. Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay drainage area within Berks County are entitled to an 80% cost share for the installation of BMPs, with a limit of $30,000.00 per farm. The funding for the Program is allocated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the participating states, which in turn allocate the money to the participating Conservation Districts.
The PA – Department of Environmental Protection is currently initiating the Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy. The Chesapeake Bay Program partners developed new scientifically based water quality criteria for the bay. New nutrient and sediment reduction goals were developed for each major tributary strategy and jurisdiction to meet the revised water quality criteria. The new goals, agreed to in April 2003, replace the previous nutrient reduction goal established by the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement. Following the adoption of the revised state water quality standards in 2005, the Bay Program partners will re-evaluate, and adjust if necessary, the nutrient and sediment goals. There are numerous new BMPs in the proposed Pennsylvania Tributary Strategy. Some of these new BMPs include: Precision Agriculture, Advanced No-Till Farming, Precision Rotational Grazing, and Carbon Sequestration.
The District actively seeks farmers to participate in the program and individually works with them to design the proper BMPs for their operation. All of the BMPs must be designed and constructed as per NRCS standards and specifications. Additionally all of the farmers that receive funding must have a P-based Nutrient Management Plan and have a RMS level Conservation Plan. Four Berks County watersheds drain towards the Susquehanna River and then into the Chesapeake Bay: Little Swatara Creek, Conestoga Creek, Little Muddy Creek, and Little Cocalico Creek. These three watersheds represent in excess of 56,000 acres.