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Agricultural Erosion Prevention
Snyder County > Departments > Conservation District > Agricultural Erosion Prevention

 Am I in Compliance?

The best way to answer that question is to invite a Snyder County Conservation District (SCCD) and/or USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff person to your farm.

Pennsylvania's erosion & sediment (E&S) and stormwater management regulations have existed since 1972. However, these rules have recently changed. All farms must have a written plan to reduce erosion from tillage, areas along streams and animal heavy use areas (AHUAs) disturbing more than 5,000 square feet. (This includes no-till farming and areas lacking vegetation.) Best management practices (BMPs) must be implemented to control soil runoff.

 AG E&S and Conservation Plans

If you ask a farmer what is an agricultural erosion and sedimentation plan, he or she may have no idea what you are talking about. However, many are familiar with the term "conservation plan," a type of plan written by NRCS. In many instances, a recently written NRCS plan will meet what PA regulations call an "agricultural E&S plan." If you have a NRCS written conservation plan, you may want to check if it addresses the following:

  • Is the crop rotation and tillage practices in the plan identical to what you are doing now? If not, a revision is strongly recommended.
  • Does the plan address BMPs to control erosion within 100 ft. of streams, etc.? In PA, there must be at least 25% plant cover or crop residue within this zone.
  • AHUAs must be identified and BMPs to fix or limit their impact. In PA, the farmer must prevent pollution to water bodies from these areas.
  • Does the plan include soil loss calculations? In the past, NRCS did not include this information in the farm operator's copy. If not, check with the NRCS office and ask for a set of these calculations.

While NRCS or a another professional can write a conservation plan, a farmer is allowed to write his or her agricultural E&S plan. If you wish to do this, please contact the SCCD at 570-837-3000 for more information.


Note #1: Agricultural E&S plans, including NRCS developed conservation plans, must be available for review at the farm by PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or other designated staff if requested.

Note #2: Farmers and others wishing to write their own Ag E&S plan can go to Users must have Firefox installed on their computer in order to use this web based program.

Note #3: A farmer can earn a tax credit by completing a REAP application if you hire someone to write your agricultural erosion & sedimentation (Ag. E&S) or conservation plan. Also, there is a statewide cost share program available for farmers to hire a consultant to write a plan. Details can be found in our Agricultural Conservation Assistance web page under the "Financial Assistance" section.

 Animal Heavy Use Areas (AHUAs)

Definition of AHUAs: "Barnyards, feedlots, loafing area, exercise lots or other similar areas on agricultural operations where due to the concentration of animals it is not possible to establish and maintain vegetative cover of a density capable of minimizing accelerated erosion and sedimentation by usual planting methods."

These AHUAs are also described as areas not in a pasture, but still outside of a barn or other animal raising facility. For practical purposes, they are similar to what PA nutrient management regulations define as an animal concentration area (ACA). Besides, these areas not only can cause sediment pollution; but they move manure nitrogen and phosphorus that would fertilize plants and end up in streams.

No matter if the area is earthen or concrete; in a pasture or not in a pasture; near a stream or away from a stream; the farmer is responsible for preventing pollution from these AHUA from reaching surface waters. Examples of fixing these problems are as follows:

  • Keep grassy areas between AHUAs and streams green and lush.
  • Maintain a permanent vegetative buffer between cattle and streams.
  • Divert roof water and other clean water away from AHUAs.
  • Transfer dirty water to a manure storage or treat it with a grassy filter area or other BMP.

If you are looking for technical assistance, please contact the SCCD (570-837-3000) and/or the NRCS Middleburg Field Office (570-837-0007, x3)

 Streambank Fencing

Keeping cattle and other livestock out of streams is good for animal health and stream health. In PA, there is no state-wide environmental regulation or law that states that animals must be fenced out of streams in pastures. However, the farmer runs the risk that the animals will "beat up" the streambanks and pollute the water with sediment and manure nutrients. If this is happening, the farmer runs the risk of violating PA environmental rules.

The SCCD and other agencies and groups encourage streambank fencing. Vegetative buffers between streambank edge and fence help filter sediment and nutrients from pastures before reaching streams. Contact the SCCD for more information.

 In Closing ...

Examples of agricultural BMPs can be found in the Snyder County Agriculture BMP Guide and the PA Conservation Catalog. These booklets show many types of BMPs that can prevent sediment and nutrient pollution of surface and ground water. Go to the "Technical Assistance Publications" section to download either publication. 

From time to time, other publications are available either at the SCCD office or at the (USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service) NRCS-Middleburg Field Office. Also, check out our Agricultural Conservation Assistance and Agricultural Nutrient Management web pages for additional information.

Note #1: Much of this information came from the flyer "Agricultural Environmental Regulations: Am I in Compliance" published by DEP in partnership with Lancaster CCD & PA Agricultural Ombudsman Program.

Note #2: Information about excavation form building construction can be found in our Worksite Erosion Prevention web page.

 Contact Information

Snyder County Conservation District
10541 Route 522
Middleburg, PA 17842
Phone: (570) 837-3000
Fax: (570) 837-7300
Hours: Monday thru Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

 SCCD Internal Links

 Technical Assistance Information

 SCCD Assists with Tillage & Cover Crop Surveys

Snyder County Conservation District (SCCD) has worked with Capital RC&D (Capital Resource Conservation & Development) to conduct a tillage survey in the county in June 2017. Another survey is expected to take place around June 2019. SCCD also helped out with a similar survey to determine the types and amount of cover crops  planted in the county in November 2018.

SCCD is one many conservation districts within the Chesapeake Bay watershed helping out with these surveys.

Data collected from these surveys will be given to PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in modeling and tracking of water quality improvements.

For more information, please download this information sheet about the 2015 tillage survey. This information is similar to what took place during the 2017 tillage survey and the 2016 and 2018 cover crop surveys.

 Cooperative Agency Information

Natural Resources Conservation Service
Middleburg Field Office
401 West Market Street
Middleburg, PA 17842
Phone: (570) 837-0007, x3