In Pennsylvania, the dairy industry is a vital resource, yet it is a large contributor to nonpoint-source pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Consequently, concern for the environment often translates into increased regulations on farming practices, and farmers need assistance to find ways to comply without jeopardizing their business needs. Presently, government programs do not meet this environmental challenge; viable incentives need to be developed for farmers that foster the use of environmentally sound practices.

Rodale Institute is concerned with the farmersÕ profitability and the regionÕs pollution problems. To address this problem, Rodale Institute, the Atlantic Dairy Cooperative a farmer-owned marketing co-op representing 40% of the dairies in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), and Penn State, have formed the Dairy Network Partnership. The PartnershipÕs goal is to help farmers and other key players to reduce water pollution caused by dairy farming without putting farmers out of business. This diverse partnership will attempt to move beyond traditional approaches to improving water quality by:

Broadening the audience. The Partnership will involve farmers, cooperatives, processors, service providers, environmentalists, and particularly the private sector to address agricultural pollution.

Identifying barriers and incentives. One of the first tasks will be to catalogue current incentives that promote the use of environmentally sound practices. A meeting of the regionÕs dairy industry representatives will allow participants to begin building the network, prioritizing barriers and incentives, and refining the strategies that the project will implement.

Promoting participatory planning. The Partnership will work closely with the Penn State Farmstead Evaluation project, a new project funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. Farmstead evaluation is a process that engages farmers and advisors in a participatory process for prioritizing the improvement of farmstead conditions. This process could also serve as the basis for rewarding farmers who manage their farmsteads well. We expect to work with 10 to 20 farms during the course of the project that are changing their farm management practices.

Linking farming with consumers. Ultimately, society bears the cost of environmental degradation. This project will explore how the price farmers receive for their milk, arguably the most powerful influence over their management decision-making, can be used as a tool to reward using environmentally sound management practices.

This project expands on the success we have had in the RISA project of building constructive partnerships and enhances the InstituteÕs role in the regional food system.

Program Staff:

Kim Kroll, Project Leader

Project Status: initiated April 1995


Rodale Institute
Atlantic Dairy Cooperative
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA)
Penn State University

Funding for the program is provided by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts