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Lycoming Funds Conservation Practices
Lycoming County Program Funds Conservation Practices
By Darrin Youker
Lycoming County has started a nutrient credit trading program that pays farmers for conservation practices that reduce nutrients and sediments from reaching waterways.
So far, Lycoming County has paid nine farmers $41,000 since the program began in 2010. Organizers say the program can be replicated in counties across Pennsylvania.
In Lycoming County, the credits were sold in 2010 and 2011 during an auction supervised by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority. Those credits are purchased by sewage treatment plants, or other pollution generators, to comply with state and federal pollution controls called for in the federal Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, the Williamsport Sun-Gazette reported.
Karl Brown, Executive Secretary of the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission., said the program developed by officials in Lycoming County can be duplicated in other areas of the Commonwealth.
Some communities have been asked to reduce the amount of nutrients coming from point-source locations, such as sewage treatment plants, Brown said. One way to do that is upgrade those facilities, which can become expensive, he said. Another solution is to develop a nutrient trading program, where operators of the sewage treatment plant pay farmers who are utilizing no-till or cover crops to reduce nutrient loads, Brown said.
“The same nutrient reduction can be done by farmers, and is generally cheaper than building a new treatment plant,” Brown said. “It might not be the answer every time, but you can do it as a short-term solution.”
Lycoming County began working on the program in 2008 after the county was told it needed to make tens of millions in upgrades to a local sewer plant, the Sun Gazette reported. The county decided to form a coalition to develop the trading program, the newspaper said.
“If you have to reduce nitrogen, what is the most effective way to do it?” Brown said.
Mark Davidson, executive director of the Lycoming County Conservation District, said farmers are receiving 75 percent of the proceeds from selling the credits. The remaining money is retained by the county, which supervises and certifies the sale of credits, he said.
In many cases, farmers are receiving money for voluntary conservation practices they began on their lands, Davidson said.
“It will be trial and error for now,” he said. “We intend to offer the farmer the best deal possible.”