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Perdue Partners With Alliance for Chesapeake Bay on Conservation Grant

Lancaster Farming, October 27, 2023

Approximately 15 Perdue poultry farms in Pennsylvania will receive a makeover to beautify the area around the barns while helping the Chesapeake Bay.

Nearly $10 million in grants were awarded for projects in Pennsylvania and surrounding states aimed at improving the bay and its watershed.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued $9.6 million to 10 community-based projects designed to protect and restore the bay and its tributary rivers and streams.

The money came from the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund’s Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reductions Program as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will provide $238 million over five years for programs helping to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

Grant recipients provided matching funds, bringing the total allotment to more than $19 million.

One of the awardees is the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, which received a $1 million grant and will work with Perdue Farms to implement “full-farm conservation efforts” at poultry houses in Lancaster and surrounding counties. Perdue will add $300,000 to fund the projects.

Brittany Smith, agriculture project manager for the alliance, said the full-farm approach means the projects will focus on improving the environment while meeting the operational and economic needs of each farm.

To achieve that goal, about 36 conservation practices will be implemented at Perdue farms, including manure stacking and composting sheds, riparian forest buffers and shelter belts.

In the end, she said, the work will improve the farms and help the bay.

“With composting, some farms are doing it outside right now, and it’s subject to rainwater and even wildlife preying on the carcasses,” Smith said. “We want to make sure it’s all under roof and capture any runoff.”

The Perdue project is part of the alliance’s corporate sustainability initiative. Since 2017, the Alliance has worked with agricultural supply chain corporations such as Turkey Hill Dairy, The Hershey Co., Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association and Land O’Lakes on conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Working with the poultry industry requires a similar approach to the conservation projects at dairy facilities, Smith said, but there are differences.

“You have manure issues on both dairy and poultry operations, but with the Perdue partnership we’re really looking at environmental buffers — planting trees — around the poultry houses to mitigate dust and ammonia,” she said. “This helps both air quality and water quality.”

Planting trees as environmental buffers, which Smith said are different than stream buffers, is not a common practice in Pennsylvania. The common approach has been to plant grass around poultry houses, not trees.

To make the project work for farmers and realize an environmental benefit, Smith said shrubs will likely be planted so they don’t interfere with the barns, and all of the species will be native to Pennsylvania.

Drew Getty, vice president of environmental sustainability at Perdue Farms, said the partnership with the alliance is key to meeting the company’s responsibility as an environmental steward.

Smith acknowledged that farmers often can’t afford to make the investment required to implement conservation projects, so grants are critical.

“All of the Perdue farms are in the bay watershed, and Perdue is really upping their game by contributing $300,000 to the work and entering into a partnership to get this done for its farmers,” she said.

Other grant recipients include Penn State, which received $1 million and will contribute another $1 million in matching funds.

The university will use the money on a project designed to accelerate the implementation of watershed conservation practices in a lower Susquehanna River watershed.

The project will use volunteer programs, initiate green infrastructure projects in places of worship, and support congregational members in adopting conservation practices on their farms.

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay received another grant of nearly $647,000 for the implementation and restoration of riparian forest buffers in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The project will also address conservation needs of farmers and prioritize best management practices that reduce nutrient and sediment pollution runoff. The alliance will contribute another $647,000 in matching funds.

To the north, the Tioga County Soil and Water Conservation District of New York received a $1 million grant to improve water quality and enhance restoration efforts in the upper Susquehanna River region of New York and Pennsylvania.

Work will include restoration of riparian forest buffers, wetlands and floodplains. The district will contribute another $1 million in matching funds.

The Chesapeake Bay Program has put $30 million in infrastructure funding toward restoration efforts in the watershed’s most effective basins since 2022.

More than half of that funding has gone to agricultural conservation practices to reduce farm runoff.

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