The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) welcomes the funding increases in President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget for two programs essential to restoring the Bay and its tributaries, EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program and technical assistance for farmers enrolled in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs.
The president’s budget request, released yesterday, would raise Bay Program spending by roughly $2.6 million, from the current fiscal 2022 level of $88 million to roughly $90.6 million in fiscal 2023.
The Bay Program coordinates the federal-state-local partnership to restore the Bay and its tributaries, and conducts scientific monitoring and research. It devotes roughly two thirds of its annual budget to funding cleanup projects in communities across the Bay region.
The Bay Program is critical to implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The Blueprint gives the six watershed states and the District of Columbia until 2025 to implement policies and practices to meet science-based standards for reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in the Bay and the tens of thousands of local creeks, streams, and rivers that empty into it.
President Biden’s budget also includes the five-year, $238 million increase the Bay Program got in the bipartisan infrastructure law enacted in November, although it does not indicate how EPA should spend those funds. The increase works out to $47.6 million annually.
Technical assistance for farmers across the country enrolled in USDA conservation programs would rise by $125 million, from $760 million in fiscal 2022 to $885 million in fiscal 2023.
These programs enable farmers in the watershed to implement practices, such as planting streamside forested buffers, that improve water quality in the Bay and its waterways.
Roughly 80 percent of the remaining pollution cuts the watershed states committed to making in the Blueprint must come from agriculture. Helping farmers implement conservation practices that reduce polluted runoff from their land is one of the most cost-effective ways the federal government can fulfill its responsibility to lead the cleanup partnership.
The need is greatest in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth lags far behind the other five states in meeting its pollution-reduction commitments under the Blueprint, and agriculture is responsible for making more than 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s outstanding cuts.
CBF Federal Executive Director Denise Stranko released the following statement:
“With less than four years left to meet the Blueprint’s 2025 deadline, CBF is pleased President Biden proposes to increase funding for EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program and USDA conservation technical assistance. Robust funding for both programs is essential to restoring the Bay and its tributaries while we still can.
“We also call on USDA to devote a significant portion of next year’s conservation technical assistance budget to helping farmers in the watershed, particularly in Pennsylvania, adopt practices that improve water quality. Reducing polluted runoff from farmland is the single largest hurdle to restoring the Bay, and nowhere is the need greater than in the Commonwealth.
“CBF looks forward to partnering with the Biden administration and Congress in the coming months to ensure maximum funding for programs across the federal government that play a role saving the Bay, its local waterways, and wildlife habitat across the Bay watershed.”