Agriculture

Photo courtesy NRCS MarylandPhoto courtesy NRCS Maryland

Farming's Critical Role in Keeping Our Waters Clean

Farming and a healthy farm economy play a critical role in local communities, in the social fabric of the region, and in the water quality of our rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. But the future of farming across the Chesapeake Bay watershed is precarious. We're losing farms because of sprawling suburban development, diminishing profits, increases in the cost of fuel and other operational expenses, and a steep decrease in the share of consumer food dollars received by farmers.

Preserving farms and open space is essential, because these lands serve as precious natural filters for our water. CBF supports land use programs and policies that slow the loss of farmland and prevent sprawl.

But agricultural lands also contribute nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution to our rivers and streams. CBF continues to advocate for conservation programs to establish on-the-ground projects that limit polluting runoff: stream buffers, cover crops, rotational grazing, and other "best management practices."

These agricultural measures are the most cost-effective way to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution to the Bay. In fact, scientists estimate that we could achieve almost two-thirds of the nitrogen and phosphorus reductions necessary to restore the Chesapeake Bay, at only 13 percent of the total cost of Bay restoration, by implementing them.


Be sure to check out our series of farmer success stories across the watershed.


Watershed-wide, farmers are willing to adopt these conservation and preservation measures, and they are making progress. But they can't do it alone. Federal and state government investments in conservation practices, like the federal Farm Bill, can help farmers reduce pollution, remain profitable, and improve water quality for everyone.

You may also be interested in:
  • The Story of Nitrogen How excessive nitrogen and phosphorus degrade the Bay's water quality.
  • Reducing Phosphorus Pollution in Maryland Phosphorus is one of the three major pollutants affecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Land where manure is applied has, on average, three times more phosphorus runoff than land not receiving manure. As part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, Maryland is required to reduce phosphorus pollution 48 percent by 2025.
  • A Farmer Weighs in... This farmer says enough is enough.
  • Buffer Bonus Program Helps Farmers Improve Water Quality The Buffer Bonus program is a CBF initiative that helps farmers make on-farm improvements.
  • Back to the Future Ron Holter is one of about 50 dairy farmers in Maryland who are boosting their profitability by going back in time.

Creating Jobs,
Saving the Bay

See how Terra-Gro, Inc. in Terre Hill, Pennsylvania, is creating jobs and saving the Bay through its innovative and environmentally friendly composting system. This project not only restores our waters, but creates 10,000 jobs in the process!

Terra-Gro, Inc.

Find out more about the economic importance of cleaning up our waters.

Programs & Initiatives

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
CBF is a partner in this program, which provides funding for Pennsylvania landowners to make their streamside property or farmland more conservation-friendly. Learn More

Buffer Bonus Program
This CBF incentive program enables CREP participants to implement other water-quality enhancing changes on their farms. Learn More

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