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USGS Chesapeake Bay Activities

USGS works with USDA and State Jurisdictions to Enhance Reporting of Agricultural Conservation Practices that Reduce Loss of Nutrients and Sediment in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

By Dean Hively, U.S. Geological Survey, December 2013

Figure 1 from OFR 2013-1287

Image of Figure 1 from OFR 2013-1287. The Chesapeake Bay watershed (gray) with State jurisdictional borders (heavy black lines), and county boundaries (light black lines). The Chesapeake Bay watershed boundary is derived from the Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership’s Watershed Model version 5.3.

Need to Improve Reporting of Practices that Reduce Loss of Nutrients and Sediment
The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) is working to enhance reporting of agricultural conservation practices being implemented to reduce the loss of nutrients and sediment from the watershed to Chesapeake Bay. Each year, the six State jurisdictions within the Chesapeake Bay watershed are required to report progress in conservation implementation to the CBP partnership at its Annual Progress Review so that the practices can be credited toward attainment of water-quality goals. With financial support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) worked with the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the State jurisdictions to develop consistent access to USDA agricultural conservation practice data records, in order to improve the capacity within the jurisdictions to thoroughly track, report, and improve the implementation of conservation practices by Chesapeake Bay farmers.

Although farm enrollment data for USDA conservation programs are confidential, agencies can obtain access to the privacy-protected data if they are established as USDA Conservation Cooperators. The datasets can also be released to the public if they are first aggregated to protect farmer privacy. In 2012, the USGS used its USDA Conservation Cooperator status to obtain implementation data for conservation programs sponsored by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) for farms within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and provided a public dataset of county-scale aggregated totals to the jurisdictions.

Key Results:
The USGS has published an Open-File Report 2013–1287 to document the project. The report, titled "Integrating Federal and State data records to report progress in establishing agricultural conservation practices on Chesapeake Bay farms" by W. Dean Hively, Olivia H. Devereux, and Peter Claggett, is available online. Some key results:

Implications and Next Steps

For More Information
The report is available online at

The following appendixes can be accessed through the links found at the end of the report: Appendix A. Key contacts; Appendix B. 1619 Conservation Cooperator Agreements; Appendix C. USGS-USDA data requests; Appendix D. USDA Practice Code lookup tables; Appendix E. Crosswalk between USDA Practice Codes and Scenario Builder.

For more information about this report contact: W. Dean Hively, Research Physical Scientist, USGS Eastern Geographic Science Center (

For more information on CBP Partnership conservation activities contact: Kelly Shenk, Regional Agricultural Advisor, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region III, (

For more information about USGS Chesapeake Bay studies, contact: Scott Phillips, Chesapeake Bay Coordinator ( or visit the USGS Chesapeake WWW site at

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