WASHINGTON – Today Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bob Casey (D-PA) and Congressmen Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) urged the Obama Administration to strongly support agricultural conservation programs to ensure a clean Chesapeake Bay in its FY 2017 budget. To increase the economic benefits from the lands and waters throughout the Bay’s watershed, states are working to achieve the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, but progress is in jeopardy if programs are not sufficiently funded.
“Great progress has been made in the last six years… Unfortunately, recent program reviews conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Program reveal that in particular geographies, we are not on track to meet the goals of the Blueprint,” the Members wrote in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan. “All that has been accomplished, and all that stands to be accomplished, will be threatened if our rural areas cannot receive the support and assistance they need at this critical time.”
The full letter to Director Donovan is below:
Dear Director Donovan:
We write concerning the ongoing efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. We appreciate the Obama Administration’s commitment to working with our states and communities and the entire watershed to achieve a healthy Bay by 2025.
As you know, Executive Order 13508 on Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Protection states, “[t]he Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure constituting the largest estuary in the United States and one of the largest and most biologically productive estuaries in the world.” An important element of this initiative is the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, as the Chesapeake Bay TMDL has come to be called, which when implemented will increase the economic benefits from these lands and waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay region by $22 Billion per year, to $129 Billion. This Blueprint was developed with federal leadership through the Chesapeake Bay Program in collaboration with Bay watershed states in 2010, and it was independently ratified by all Bay watershed states.
Great progress has been made in the last six years. We commend the commitment and hard work of state and local governments throughout the region. The federal government has also been a critical partner, and we particularly want to highlight the contributions made by the Department of Agriculture through the conservation programs.
Unfortunately, recent program reviews conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Program reveal that in particular geographies, we are not on track to meet the goals of the Blueprint. Specifically, much of the outstanding work involves helping farmers and rural communities in Pennsylvania take the steps needed to reduce harmful agricultural pollution of the Bay. This can be done without harming the farm economy, but at this time leadership from the Federal government is critical.
We are writing to encourage you to include strong supports for the USDA conservation programs in the fiscal year 2017 budget. Farmers in the watershed, and particularly in the Susquehanna River Basin, need assistance to achieve the nitrogen goals required for the health of the Bay.
Significantly, this action is consistent not only with the Executive Order, but also with the Administration’s policies for adapting to climate change and enhancing soil health. The practices that need to be implemented on agricultural lands under the Blueprint in Pennsylvania and throughout the watershed are the same practices that will help soils become more resilient to extreme weather events and ultimately become more productive, while requiring less fertilizer and reducing nutrient and sediment pollution to rivers and streams and the Bay.
The goals of the Executive Order and Blueprint can be achieved, and the Chesapeake Bay can be a shining example of how protection of our natural resources and economic development can both be served. Yet all that has been accomplished, and all that stands to be accomplished, will be threatened if our rural areas cannot receive the support and assistance they need at this critical time. We urge your attention to this matter.