June 20, 2007

CARDIN, MIKULSKI CALL FOR ADDITIONAL CONSERVATION RESOURCES FOR CHESAPEAKE WATERSHED FARMERS

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senators Benjamin J. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today urged the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to include their legislative proposal to dramatically boost federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay clean-up effort as they draft the upcoming multi-year agriculture reauthorization bill (Farm Bill).   In a letter to Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the Senators outlined their priorities as drafted in the Chesapeake's Healthy and Environmentally Sound Stewardship of Energy and Agriculture Act of 2007 (CHESSEA), which they introduced last month.

 

"The Chesapeake Bay is not only Maryland's greatest natural resource, it's part of who we are as Marylanders - our heritage and our culture.   Maryland communities and farmers want to do right by the Bay, but they can't do it on their own," said Senator Mikulski.   "That's why I will continue to fight with Senator Cardin to have our priorities to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay included in the Farm Bill."

 

"The Bay is a national treasure, and we need to make an investment worthy of its value to Maryland and to America," said Senator Cardin.   "The restoration efforts of the last twenty years have resulted in modest improvements in the face of major population and economic growth.   We need to redouble our efforts, and this legislation is designed to give our farmers the tools they need to be part of that renewed effort."

 

If Senator Mikulski and Cardin's recommendations are implemented, the Farm Bill will allocate funding for water quality improvement and farm viability in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.   The legislation will give farmers the necessary tools to reduce agricultural run-off in the Bay.   It expands several Farm Bill programs that are up for reauthorization this year and provides funding for additional conservation and renewable energy practices.  

 

The text of the letter is below:

 

Dear Chairman and Ranking Member:

 

As the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee develops its draft Farm Bill reauthorization, we are writing to let you know that a top priority for us is significant additional conservation resources for farmers in our states, all of which are in the Chesapeake watershed.

 

Agriculture is a critical part of our states' economies and cultures.   However, many of the rivers and streams of our states, and the entire Chesapeake Bay, are officially designated as "impaired."   Agriculture is one of the largest contributing source sectors causing the impairments.   Our states are requiring more than 450 wastewater treatment plants to limit their nitrogen and phosphorus discharges at an estimated cost of $5 billion.   Our cities are undertaking major stormwater retrofit projects that are equally expensive.   Agriculture can be part of the solution, too, but our farmers need significant increases in technical and financial assistance to protect the nation's water and other valuable environmental resources.    Providing such resources additionally helps to protect farm families and rural economies, minimizes regulatory burdens, and complies with international trade agreements and rules.

 

We therefore support your initiative to provide significant additional conservation resources to America's farmers and landowners, many of whom have demonstrated notable willingness to implement measures to limit nutrient and sediment runoff, but lack the technical and financial resources to do all that is needed while staying in business.  

 

We recognize that you have difficult choices to make as you develop the 2007 Farm Bill. However, we want you to know that additional conservation assistance for our states' farmers is a top priority for us, and we urge you to do all you can to provide additional conservation resources in the new Farm Bill.  

 

Thank you for your continued outstanding leadership on agriculture issues for all of America.   We look forward to working with you to enact the strongest Farm Bill possible.