When Dennis Brumbaugh switched to no-till planting equipment at Curryview Farm in Martinsburg, he was thinking not only of the environment but of his family, too.
"It's good stewardship of the land," said Brumbaugh, 55, who runs the farm with his son Keith, 29. "It's been in the family for four generations. We want to preserve it the best way we can."
Brumbaugh was able to purchase the equipment for his dairy farm with help from the Resource Enhancement and Protection tax credit program, or REAP.
Mirror photo by?Gary M. Baranec
Dennis Brumbaugh (left)?watches as his son Keith Brumbaugh fills a no-till corn planter at Curryview Farm in Martinsburg. The Brumbaughs received tax credit reimbursements for half the cost of the planter.
Farmers can receive tax credits of up to $150,000 per agricultural operation for 50 percent to 75 percent of the total cost of a conservation project or a 50 percent tax credit to purchase no-till planting equipment.
In 2007, the first year funding was available, Brumbaugh received $11,700 in tax credits for the purchase of a no-till drill to plant alfalfa and small grains; the total cost of the drill was $23,400. Last year, he received $15,070 toward a no-till corn planter that cost $30,140.
"It prevents erosion (that would occur) from working the ground up and so forth. You plant right into the ground, and you're saving the soil," Brumbaugh said.
How to apply
Applications for the 2009-2010 program will be accepted by the commission beginning Aug. 3, on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications postmarked prior to July 30 will be returned. All applications received by the commission postmarked July 30 and later and received by the close of the business day on Aug. 3 will be pooled, randomly selected and assigned a number.
Applications and guidelines are available at www.agriculture. state.pa.us/REAP. County conservation district offices are available to help with the application. Contact the Blair County Conservation District at 696-0877.
He's saving money, too - Brumbaugh estimates he's saved 50 percent to 70 percent on fuel costs since switching to no-till equipment, and that's one reason REAP is already making an environmental impact, said Carl Brown, executive secretary of the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission.
"It's been a real shot in the arm for guys moving to no-till," Brown said. "When REAP was introduced, it was right around that same time frame that fuel costs shot up."
In addition to no-till planting, REAP credits are also available for projects that reduce sediment and nutrients - specifically, phosphorous and nitrogen - runoff from farms. Excess nutrients that exceed a waterway's absorption capacity become pollutants that destroy aquatic and plant life.
With state budget negotiations under way in Harrisburg, Brown wasn't sure how much would be allotted for REAP this year. He said Gov. Ed Rendell's budget proposal includes $10 million for REAP for 2009-10.
In the past, there haven't been enough tax credits to go around, said Mary Bender, REAP program administrator. The first year, $10 million was given out within 10 days of the due date for proposals; last year, the state committed all $10 million on the first day. Another $2 million in projects was left out.
Between 450 and 460 farmers applied for the program last year, though several had more than one project, Brown said. About 350 were given tax credits.
Tax credits are given on a first-come, first-serve basis, Bender said.
"The only eligibility requirement is that a farm has a current conservation plan or nutrient management plan in place," she said.
REAP was the "first environmental legislation ever introduced using tax credits to help clean up the environment - the first of its kind in the nation," said state Rep. Jerry Stern, R-Martinsburg, who sponsored the bill that introduced REAP.
Stern said he introduced the bill to help farmers meet standards put in place to clean up pollution in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Stern said he recently received a letter from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that the REAP funding has already had an impact on the bay.
"By only spending 7.2 percent of the total cost of what it would take to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, just through that, there's been a 75 percent reduction in nitrogen in the bay," Stern said. "It just goes to show what a truly great investment it is."
Speaking after budget negotiations Thursday, Stern said he wasn't sure how many REAP tax credits would be available this year.
"There's nothing right now," he said. "We're hopeful that we'll be able to have funding included. Everything is up in the air; it depends on whose budget you're looking at."
Mirror Staff Writer Ashley Gurbal is at 946-7435.