The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay received a sweet boost for Sustainable Dairy PA, a newly formed partnership between the Alliance, The Hershey Company, and Land O’Lakes, Inc. The $500,000 Small Watershed Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund will support on-the-ground efforts to accelerate sediment, nutrient, and greenhouse gas reduction in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Formed in early 2021, Sustainable Dairy PA supports the Land O’Lakes member dairy farmers serving Hershey in achieving the company’s elevated sustainability goals. Sustainable Dairy PA serves as Hershey’s flagship effort in engaging with their local dairy supply chain starting with a pilot $300,000 Hershey funding commitment to agricultural conservation practices on dairy farms within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Additionally, this project will prioritize conservation practices that effectively and efficiently sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on top of their water quality benefits.

This new grant funding will help accelerate Sustainable Dairy PA’s efforts and outreach with over 400 farms throughout the commonwealth. Such efforts include installing important agricultural best management practices (BMPs), such as riparian forest buffers, manure storage facilities, barnyard stabilization, cattle walkways, and more, to reduce on-farm soil and nutrient runoff, implementing a sustainable supply chain model that can be replicated throughout the agricultural industry, and elevating the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s standard for the agricultural industry.

NFWF’s support through this grant award will accelerate the capacity of Sustainable Dairy PA, the Alliance, Land O’Lakes and the Hershey Company to make an impact on the ground. The Alliance is inspired by Land O’Lakes and the Hershey Company’s commitment to supporting farmers. Corporate engagement and financial support makes farmers feel heard and cared for and therefore much more willing to implement the work that our waterways need.

This project will partner with farmers in Lancaster and Lebanon counties within the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay drainage areas – an area that has a high concentration of small dairy farms (average of 70 cows/farm), whose operators often feel pressure to not ‘waste’ land that could produce feed for their livestock. This results in overgrazing and/or cropland production close to streams, which increases soil and nutrient pollution and degrades stream health.

Draining approximately half of the land area from Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River provides approximately 50% of the total fresh water flow to and is the largest tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. With 33,000 farms in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River basin, agriculture accounts for 26% of the land use and is the largest source of nutrients and sediment transported to surface waters. Equipped with this funding, Sustainable Dairy PA will enable these small dairy operations to significantly reduce their pollutant loads to local waterways. More specifically, this project aims to reduce 127,055 lbs of nitrogen, 9,905 lbs of phosphorus, and 3,714,439 lbs of sediment with this Small Watershed Grant.

In addition to the huge environmental benefits of this project, the work will also demonstrate that conservation and economic profit are compatible and that milk produced on farms using clean water practices provides a value-added premium in the marketplace. In response to climate environmental crises, leaders within the U.S. dairy industry have committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Hershey and Land O’Lakes have both made significant commitments supporting their farmers in achieving this dairy industry goal.

This project will accelerate the conservation momentum already underway within the agricultural industry in PA and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The project team anticipates that success with Hershey and Land O’Lakes will influence other industry leaders to model this approach. As such, Sustainable Dairy PA not only builds on the leadership of Hershey and Land O’Lakes, it also catalyzes the continued expansion of industry-led sustainability initiatives and commitments throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed and beyond.

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