A yearlong inspection of farms in Lancaster and 42 other counties found that 60 percent of them had state-required erosion and manure plans.
Lancaster County farmers had a slightly lower compliance rate, at 48 percent. Of 308 farms visited here, 140 had the required plans, according to the Lancaster County Conservation District.
Of the 168 local farmers who initially did not have the plans when inspected, 154 then acquired them within the 90- to 180-day grace period, raising the compliance rate to 95 percent.
Currently, there are 14 farmers who have not acquired the plans.
The state Department of Environmental Protection, which initiated the inspections, said it was “pursuing enforcement actions on farmers not meeting their planning requirements.”
In Lancaster County, DEP has sent out about 20 notices of violation to farmers and delivered four field orders so far. If farmers don’t get the plans, they could be fined.
Christopher Thompson, manager of the Lancaster County Conservation District, said the response of local farmers shows that they are doing their part.
“Clean local water is important,” he said.
“The program is not what we want to spend our time doing, but it has been effective in reaching folks.
“The initiative is not going away — 300-plus more visits each of the next several years. So, get compliant now!”
The random, on-the-farm inspections were ordered by DEP last summer after pressure from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
EPA said Pennsylvania was lagging in its commitment to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients polluting the Chesapeake Bay via the Susquehanna River.
A large portion of the nutrients comes from the runoff of soil and manure into streams.
DEP said 12 percent of farmland in the bay watershed was inspected in the first year of the crackdown.
Larger farms inspected as part of another existing program showed an 80-percent compliance rate, DEP said.
Pennsylvania is mandated by EPA to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment levels in waters in its bay watershed counties by 2025.
DEP said it has made “significant progress” toward meeting the EPA targets but that considerable work remains to be done.”
Most inspections of farms are being done by staff from county conservation districts, including Lancaster County. In 10 counties, DEP staff perform the inspections.
Farmers and industry groups have complained that the federal government is not counting volunteer conservation work that farmers are doing without government aid.
In December, the results of a Penn State survey showed that farmers in 41 counties have indeed been making on-the-farm improvements that are not showing up in government computer models.
The survey, supported by the state departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, as well as EPA, found that nearly a half-million acres had undergone nutrient and manure conservation work not used in computer models to estimate pollution coming from the state.
The measures included 1.3 million linear feet of fencing placed along streams, 4,270 manure storage units and more than 5,000 acres of stream banks planted with riparian buffers.
The survey results were reported to EPA.