The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) hailed today’s 220-213 vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a $1.7 trillion budget package that would devote $27 billion to conservation programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
USDA conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Regional Conservation Partnership Plan (RCPP), and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) provide farmers with financial and technical support to adopt practices that reduce water pollution, combat the effects of climate change, and improve soil health.
Practices include installing forested buffers near streams, rotating land where livestock graze, planting cover crops, and fencing livestock out of streams.
The legislation would direct $9 billion to EQIP, $4.1 billion to the CSP, and $7.5 billion to the RCPP, all through fiscal year 2026. It would also send $200 million through fiscal 2031 to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide conservation technical assistance to farmers. The Senate still must vote on the package.
Farmers in the Chesapeake region must come up with 80 percent of the remaining pollution cuts necessary to meet the 2025 deadline for states to adopt the policies and practices necessary to restore the Bay and its waterways.
USDA cost-share projects such as building fences, installing water supply systems for livestock, and planting trees also boost local businesses and support jobs at lumber yards, tree nurseries, building supply companies, and for contractors.
CBF Federal Executive Director Denise Stranko issued the following statement:
“Today’s vote brings us another important step closer to securing urgently needed funds to reduce farm runoff into the Bay and the local rivers and streams that feed into it.
“Another $27 billion for conservation programs would allow USDA to make potentially transformative investments in helping farmers do their part to save the Bay and reduce greenhouse gases with practices that also create jobs and improve farmers’ bottom line.
“CBF deeply appreciates the efforts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), along with House Agriculture Chairman David Scott (D-Ga.), Bay delegation committee members Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who chairs the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, and Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), and the rest of our Bay delegation champs to prioritize conservation programs in allocating USDA funds.
“Time is running out to restore the Bay, but it is still possible. CBF urges the Senate to act quickly to put these essential investments to work before it’s too late.”
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