On September 30, 2018, the current Farm Bill will expire. This massive bill, which is passed every five years or so, is crucial to Bay cleanup efforts because it includes conservation programs that help farmers stop pollution at its source and ensure our families enjoy clean water.
For generations, America’s family farmers have worked to protect our land and water while producing healthy foods. Without the right practices in place, however, fertilizer used in farming can end up in our rivers and streams, threatening our clean water.
CBF is working with senators and representatives from all six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to make sure the new Farm Bill invests in sustainable family farms in the watershed. Key to this effort is ensuring that Bay farmers get their fair share of resources to reduce pollution, remain profitable, and improve water quality for everyone.
CBF's efforts are having an impact. In November 2017, senators and representatives in the Bay watershed introduced the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancement Act of 2017 in Congress. This bill aims to strengthen the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and increase the tools and resources—including funding and much needed technical assistance to implement effective management practices—available to Bay farmers. In doing so, we will be helping family farmers in our watershed keep valuable fertilizer on their land and ensure we have clean water.
Congress will likely be developing and refining the Farm Bill well into 2018. At key points in the process, CBF will need our members' voices to ensure that Bay farmers receive the help they need to implement practices that protect our waters and their important role in the region's economy and culture.
The Farm Bill includes three U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that provide critical tools and resources for family farmers in the Bay watershed: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program/Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
- The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) shares the costs with farmers for installing basic on-farm practices that keep fertilizer on the farm and out of the water. In all watershed states, demand for this program exceeds supply.
- The Conservation Reserve Program/Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) helps landowners to restore streams that run through their land by installing conservation measures. For example, they plant trees that both stabilize soil on stream banks and create shade that lowers stream temperatures for fish, and they install fences that keep animals—and their manure—out of streams. Learn more about the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
- The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) makes targeted investments in family farms—particularly those farms located in "critical conservation areas" like the Chesapeake Bay watershed. For example, it will provide additional resources for installing on-farm practices that prevent pollution from entering the water. The program enables groups like CBF to help family farmers plan and install specific agricultural conservation practices on their land that are vital to improving local and downstream water quality. CBF will to work closely with Bay farmers to ensure they can participate in this program.
The Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancement Act of 2017, mentioned above, would provide much needed support for the RCPP. See CBF's summary of program issues faced by Chesapeake Bay Watershed stakeholders who have participated in the program between 2014 and 2017.
Additional information about the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act:
Learn more about how farm bill-supported conservation programs help farmers and the Bay in our Farmer Success Stories blog series.