(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Kim Coble, Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration, issued the following statement regarding a recent letter sent by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland and Robert Casey of Pennsylvania to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The senators' letter urges Secretary Vilsack and the Department of Agriculture to increase resources to help farmers in the Susquehanna River basin reduce agricultural runoff, a major source of pollution plaguing thousands of stream miles feeding the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake Bay. The letter also calls upon USDA to take greater responsibility and demonstrate greater leadership as a federal partner in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.
Recent analyses by EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program found that Pennsylvania is greatly lagging in efforts to reduce runoff from agricultural fields. The report said Commonwealth farmers must dramatically accelerate use of conservation practices if Pennsylvania is to meet pollution reduction goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the regional plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.
"CBF shares the concerns voiced by Sen. Cardin and Casey in their letter to Secretary Vilsack. We agree it is crucial that USDA provide more resources and technical assistance and target them to farmers in the Susquehanna River basin so Pennsylvania can fulfill its Clean Water Blueprint commitments.
"We know Pennsylvania farmers want to reduce runoff from their farms, but they need more support. And we have every indication that Gov. Wolf and his administration are making the Blueprint a priority. But Pennsylvania is relying upon farms to achieve the vast majority of the state's nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reduction targets. It's therefore crucial that USDA play a more proactive partnership role to help farmers and Pennsylvania reach these goals.
"Fully implementing the Blueprint will restore clean water and provide tremendous economic benefits across Pennsylvania approaching $40 billion a year, according to a 2014 CBF report. Much work has been done, but greater investments are needed now to implement proven conservation practices on Pennsylvania farms. We applaud Sen. Cardin and Casey's leadership and look forward to Secretary Vilsack's response."