The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) today cheered President Biden for signing into law landmark climate change legislation that includes historic investments in agricultural conservation programs essential to restoring the Bay and its local rivers and streams and enhancing climate resiliency in the region.
The $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act directs $20 billion to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs essential to Bay friendly farming, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
Both programs provide farmers with financial and technical support to adopt conservation practices that improve water quality and bolster resiliency to climate change effects, like more frequent, intense flooding, already damaging property and livelihoods across the watershed.
Practices include planting trees along stream banks, rotating the fields where livestock graze, and fencing livestock out of streams. These cost-effective conservation methods also improve farmers' bottom line. They help farmers cuts costs and make their farms more resilient to environmental and economic shocks by increasing yields, reducing the need for costly inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, and buffering the impacts of extreme weather.
Agriculture is the largest source of pollution in the Bay and its tributaries. It is also the sector lagging furthest behind in reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution. Roughly 90 percent of the pollution cuts still needed for a healthy Bay must come from farming.
CBF Vice President for Environmental Programs and Restoration Alison Prost released the following statement:
“We have a lot to celebrate today. Combating climate change and saving the Bay are two sides of the same coin. And while progress is being made, climate change is making saving the Bay more difficult.
“This law’s historic investments, especially in agricultural conservation practices, could be a real game-changer for the Bay and its tributaries, and for the bottom line of farmers in the region. CBF thanks President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and House Speaker Pelosi for their dedication to getting this important legislation over the finish line.
“Most of the pollution cuts still needed to restore the Bay must come from agriculture, particularly in Pennsylvania. Farmers are willing to invest their time, land, and limited funds to clean and protect local rivers and streams that feed into the Bay. But they cannot do it alone.
“This $20 billion funding infusion means USDA can afford to step up its commitment to helping Bay state farmers do their part to save this irreplaceable natural and economic resource. CBF urges USDA to seize this opportunity.”
For more information on how climate-friendly conservation practices also help the Bay, please see this expert blog by CBF Director of Science and Agricultural Policy Beth McGee, Ph.D.