Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) today lauded the 2013 Farm Bill (S. 954) for its benefits to Maryland’s farmers and the continuation of a strong foundation for restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The bill passed with bipartisan support 66-27. In addition to the safety net this farm bill provides for farmers who grow our nation’s food, it also supports low-income families who have difficulty putting food on the table.
“Overall, the 2013 Farm Bill is important for Maryland’s economy and the Chesapeake Bay. I will continue to work hard to provide our farmers with the resources they need to continue their responsible efforts to conserve the watershed. Farming in Maryland is extremely challenging. Pressure from developers is compounded by the water quality concerns that persist in the Bay and its tributaries causing farms to meet extremely high standards of operation to prevent sediment and nutrient loss. The facts of the matter are that the Chesapeake is polluted and it is the responsibility of everyone within the watershed to help clean it up. Maryland farmers understand how valuable a healthy Chesapeake Bay is: a healthier Bay means better water and soil for regional farming and a healthier overall economy for the region and the nation.
“I am proud of my work to develop the programs in this bill that maintain the traditions of providing farmers with financial resources to mitigate nutrient and sediment loss from their farms. The 2013 Senate Farm Bill continues to build on the consolidated Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which emphasizes cooperation between producers and local stakeholders to improve the effectiveness of agricultural conservation. RCCP leverages non-government funds in support of conservation projects.
“Just as important as the specific financial resources, the 2013 Farm Bill aims to move farmers out of Direct Payment programs and into expanded Crop Insurance Premium Assistance programs. For far too long, the federal government has subsidized large and wealthy agricultural producers at great expense to the US taxpayer. This Farm Bill better ensures that the federal safety net for farmers is there to support the family farmers who need it most, and not provide wasteful handouts to big corporations. It also re-establishes that farmers must protect highly erodible lands and wetlands in order to qualify for crop insurance premium assistance. These minimum qualifications have been a success in ensuring that federal taxpayer dollars are not supporting farming practices that lead to costly natural resource degradation. In Maryland, these practices are common place not just because our farmers want to be good stewards of the Bay but because the state requires farmers to manage for wetland and soil loss on their farms. I was proud to champion this effort to ensure a more level the playing field for Maryland farmers who have been good stewards of the watershed but forced to compete with producers whose production costs are lower because their operations are located in states that do not have the same environmental concerns.
“The Chesapeake Bay is the world’s largest and most productive estuary. With a length of 200 miles and 11,684 miles of tidal shoreline, more than the entire U.S. West Coast, the Bay has been deemed a national treasure by President Obama and his predecessors. It has an economic value over $1 trillion, but that value is dependent on the health of the Bay’s waters and fisheries. Twenty-five percent of lands within the watershed are used for agricultural purposes. I firmly believe that it is in the nation’s interest to protect this resource and for the federal government to coordinate the efforts of the six states and the District of Columbia.”
Senator Cardin also expressed concern that the House version of the Farm bill would make extreme cuts in critical programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that are far deeper than the reductions made in the Senate-passed bill. “I believe in a strong, robust SNAP program that provides resources to Americans in need. The Senate should hold firm against deeper cuts would significantly harm this important program and some of our must vulnerable citizens,” Senator Cardin added.