December 14, 2007

SENATE PASSES FARM BILL INCREASING FUNDING TO PROTECT THE CHESAPEAKE BAY

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-MD), praised Senate passage of the Farm Act (H.R. 2419) that provides a record increase in funding for agricultural conservation programs that help protect the Chesapeake Bay.  Senators Cardin and Mikulski, strong supporters of the measure, said it helps restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay area by providing major funding for conservation to Maryland farmers.

"Agriculture is Maryland's largest industry and the Chesapeake Bay is our largest natural resource. It's essential that we provide local farmers a broad array of tools they need to protect the Chesapeake and maintain their viability," said Senator Cardin.  "In passing this Farm Bill, we are making great strides in fulfilling our responsibility to Maryland's economy, history, culture and the social fabric of the entire region."

"When Senator Cardin and I first introduced the Chesapeake's Healthy and Environmentally Sound Stewardship of Energy and Agriculture Act (CHESSEA) of 2007, we pledged to do everything we could to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.  Today's bill includes $165 million in mandatory funding -- a major victory for the farmers and families who rely on the Bay," said Senator Mikulski. "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 want to do right by the Bay, but they can't do it on their own - we know the critical role the federal government must have in this process."

Maryland's 12,100 farms cover more than 2 million acres and produce $1.3 billion of agricultural products annually. The Chesapeake Bay is America's largest estuary. The watershed covers 64,000 square miles. The Bay and its tidal rivers have more shoreline than the entire west coast of the United States.

In addition to $165 million in dedicated funding over five years to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the legislation passed by the Senate provides much needed funds to continue key nutritional programs such as school lunches; it provides support for Maryland's growing number of organic farmers and adds benefits to small farmers, including family farms across Maryland.