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To Participate In The Pennsylvania Farm Conservation Practices Survey

On March 14, 2020

To Participate In The Pennsylvania Farm Conservation Practices Survey

We know that Pennsylvania farmers have done much to improve water quality and soil health. Yet many of the conservation practices that farmers have implemented are not accounted for in tracking progress toward priority water quality goals, including cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. This is especially true where farmers have implemented practices on their own initiative, using their own means to do so. In 2016, Penn State led a successful effort to inventory these practices by inviting Pennsylvania farmers across the Chesapeake Bay watershed to complete a survey. Nearly 7,000 responded to the 2016 survey, and many previously unreported practices were documented, reported and accepted toward agriculture’s water quality goals in the Chesapeake Bay. 

Now, in 2020, we are again following this successful format and inviting farmers in Lancaster, York, Franklin and Adams County to fill out a survey and provide a more complete picture in these four counties of the many conservation practices that have been implemented. This survey will inventory these practices, ensuring that the agricultural community receives the credit it deserves for improving water quality.

Invitations to participate in this inventory were mailed the last week of February to farmers in Lancaster, York, Adams and Franklin Counties. If you farm land in one or more of these counties and did not receive an invitation in the mail by March 6 but you and would like to participate in this survey, please email: websurvey@survey.psu.edu and include the subject line: farm survey. Please include your name and address; you will then receive a code via email. You can request a paper version of the survey if you would prefer to complete the survey through the mail.

The survey is being administered by the Penn State Survey Research Center on behalf of the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. A hard copy of the survey with a self-address stamped envelope was provided in the initial mailing, giving farmers the option of completing and returning the survey by mail.  Farmers will have the option of either completing the survey by mail or online throughout the duration of the survey period, which closes April 1, 2020. The letter provides a link to the survey online, allowing farmers to respond to the survey at the Survey Research Center’s secure Web location, http://src.survey.psu.edu/farmbmp. Farmers receiving the letter should use the five-digit code provided in the letter to log in and complete the survey.

Even if you participated in the 2016 survey, filling out the survey in 2020 is important so you can provide an update on your conservation practices. This is important for several reasons. First, it provides an opportunity to report that practices previously reported are still in place and providing water quality benefits. Second, the 2020 survey will provide you with an opportunity to report new practices that you have installed since you last filled out the survey.  Finally, the survey will give you a chance to report annual practices (such as nutrient management, no till and cover crops) for the previous calendar year.

All farmers in Lancaster, York, Franklin and Adams Counties are urged to complete the survey, whether they received the survey in the mail or not. If a farmer in these four counties has not received a mailing from the Survey Research Center but would like to fill out the survey, they can request a survey in one of three ways:

First, they may visit the website at http://src.survey.psu.edu/farmbmp and follow the instructions to request a code number to complete it online.  They can also request a hard copy by mail.

Second, they may call the Survey Research Center toll free at 1-800-648-3617 and request that a survey be mailed to them. Be sure to reference “PA Farm Conservation Practices Inventory Project” in your request and provide your mailing address.

Third, if they attend a winter meeting where the survey is being promoted, they may fill out and hand in a “Help Tell the Story” postcard or otherwise provide their name and address to request a survey. Many of the survey partners will have winter meetings where the survey will be discussed and farmers will be encouraged to participate.  Postcards and signup sheets will be available at many of these meetings.

In order to focus limited resources and encourage all Pennsylvania farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to fill out the survey, we are conducting the survey in phases. Phase one is launching this year and will focus on the four pilot counties of Lancaster, York, Franklin and Adams. Phase two will occur next year (winter 2021) and move to the next tier of priority counties. A third phase is likely to occur in winter 2022 to complete the inventory in all Pennsylvania counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Farmers may work regularly with an agricultural consultant to develop plans and implement conservation practices on their farms. These consultants may have more intimate knowledge of conservation practices on the farm. Farmers may engage their consultant to help fill out the survey.

If a retired farmer received a copy of the survey, he should have the farm operator who rents his ground fill out the survey. If both the current farm operator and the retired farmer received a survey, the operator should complete only his survey. Operators may fill out one survey for all ground that they operate (owned and rented). If the current farm operator completes his own survey, the retired farmer may call may the Survey Research Center toll free at 1-800-648-3617 and ask not to receive any future mailings.

All names and locational information about individual farmers and farms will be kept completely confidential. The results reported by Penn State will be cumulative by county and will not include individual names or locations. Names and addresses will be removed from all inventory and farm visit results to prevent identification of participants. Penn State researchers and the Survey Research Center have extensive experience in implementing these types of data confidentiality protocols and will ensure these protocols are strictly followed as this survey is administered.

Participation in the survey is completely voluntary. Nonetheless we hope that all farmers in Lancaster, York, Franklin and Adams Counties will choose to fill out the survey by April 1 and help tell a very positive story about Pennsylvania agriculture’s role in protecting and improving water quality of our streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information, contact Matt Royer at 814-863-8756 or mroyer@psu.edu

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