RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A top federal agriculture official says improved farm practices already are having a positive impact on the environmentally battered Chesapeake Bay.

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday that 88 percent of cropland within the bay’s watershed already is under some form of reduced tillage. That limits sediment and other runoff that pollutes the bay.

The No. 2 official in the USDA said the department is committed to eliminating uncertainty about the bay’s restoration, which has been the target of a legal challenge by American Farm Bureau, poultry producers and growers.

Merrigan said the USDA is committed to providing incentives, funding and technical assistance to help farmers in the bay’s six-state watershed meet the federal government’s so-called pollution diet for the bay.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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