It has taken YEARS, but today the U.S. Senate joined the House and passed a new Bay-friendly Farm Bill! The bill includes conservation programs that will help Bay farmers stop pollution at its source and ensure our families enjoy clean water.
With senators and representatives from all six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we worked hard to make sure this new bill invests in sustainable family farms in the watershed, and provides them with the tools and resources they need to protect our legacy: clean water in the Chesapeake Bay and in the rivers and streams that feed it. In fact, many Bay senators were prepared to vote NO on this bill if it did not help Bay farmers.
And our effort was successful: This Farm Bill will help family farmers in our watershed keep valuable fertilizer on their land and ensure we have clean water. While this vote happened in Washington, it was our work together--our restoration, outreach, advocacy, and communications efforts--that built the support these senators needed to vote for the Bay.
Here is a roundup of the Farm Bill programs essential to Bay restoration: The new bill includes three U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that provide critical tools and resources for family farmers in the Bay watershed. These programs are:
- 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 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is a new program that will continue the commitment to make 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 Conservation Reserve Program/Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) helps landowners to restore streams that run through their land by installing conservation measures. For example, farmers plant trees that both stabilize soil on stream banks and create shade that lowers stream temperatures for fish. Additionally, they install fences that keep animals--and their manure--out of streams.
Now that the bill is poised to become law, CBF intends to work closely with Bay farmers to ensure they can participate in the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Under this program, groups like CBF will help family farmers plan and install specific agricultural conservation practices on their land that are vital to improving local and downstream water quality.
So, taken together, this bill is a great step forward towards clean water!
--Alix Murdoch, CBF's Federal Policy Director