Guest Editorial: From Chub to Trout: Farming for Drinking Water in the Keystone State | Editorial

Growing up on a 200 acre registered Angus cattle farm in Huntingdon County, I was lucky enough to fish Emma Creek, a small tributary that runs through our farm and into the Juniata River. When I went fishing with my grandparents, our catches weren’t very impressive. Most of the time we caught brook chub – a fish that is an indicator of poor water quality. A generation later, when I fish Emma’s Creek with my 3-year-old daughter, Quinn, (and soon-to-be twins, Connor and Sully), we catch a variety of trout (rainbow and brook) as well only sunglasses. How did it happen?

Over three decades, our farm has implemented over 30 conservation practices which are regularly maintained and monitored. These practices have not only improved fish diversity, but they also add value to our smallholding by increasing the efficiency of our farm, improving the health of our livestock and reducing flooding during heavy rains.

But these practices are not cheap. Projects such as building a heavy-use livestock area, installing a fence along a creek, and planting creekside pads can come with price tags at six. figures. With most Keystone State farmers operating on extremely thin margins, implementing these field conservation practices on their own is often prohibitively expensive. Indeed, the future of agriculture in Pennsylvania is uncertain given the immense financial pressures of running a farm, especially on the next generation of farmers.

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This challenge is why Pennsylvania is so desperate to pass the Clean Streams Fund (CSF). This act includes $125 million to provide financial assistance directly to farmers or landowners to implement conservation practices on their land. And these practices don’t just help the farmer. Adopting the CSF would provide a desperately needed boost to local economies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, injecting millions of dollars into local contractors and businesses such as construction companies, tree nurseries and plant businesses. environmental engineering.

But perhaps the most critical impact of the CSF is how it will help protect and restore one of Pennsylvania’s most vital resources – our local rivers and streams. A constant from generation to generation, farmers are continually placed in a position to sell their produce at cost, feeding the nation, while facing directives to improve local water quality. Farmers want to do this work, but they cannot do it alone. With the adoption and funding of the CSF, farmers can lead the way in reducing pollution entering Keystone State waterways.

In the years to come, I hope to take responsibility for our family farm. I do not take this responsibility lightly. While I want to carry on the legacy of stewarding our land for sustainability, I know I’m not the only farmer of my generation who worries about financial pressures. It is critical that our elected officials in Harrisburg take action and invest in agriculture and the families that feed our Commonwealth, and especially the next generation of Pennsylvania farmers.

If they do this by adopting the Clean Streams Fund, we will reap the full harvest. We will boost one of Pennsylvania’s key industries, boost the economy across the Commonwealth, and clean up our rivers and streams. And if we play our cards right, farmers across the Keystone State can take their kids and grandkids fishing the local waterways and marvel at what happens on the other end of the line.

John Dawes is a fourth generation Huntingdon Farm farmer and founder of The Commons. He writes from Franklin County.

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