Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, today praised new legislation (S. 2294) introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) that would aid in restoring and maintaining the health of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The bill was introduced just one day before the State of Maryland announced that the Chesapeake Bay juvenile blue crab population is at the highest level on record, and the overall blue crab population is at its highest level since 1993.
“Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed understand, as well as the watermen, how valuable a healthy Bay is to our region and our nation. The economic value of the Bay is estimated to be more than $1 trillion, but that value is dependent on the health of the Bay’s waters and fisheries,” said Senator Cardin. “Restoring the full health of the Chesapeake Bay requires coordination among all sectors in our community. I will continue to work hard to provide our farmers with the resources they need to continue their good stewardship of the Bay. This legislation provides important tools for the cleanup of the Chesapeake that complement the needed reauthorization of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program. I greatly appreciate the role USDA plays in providing Maryland and other Bay State farmers with essential technical assistance and much needed funding to assist with implementing proper soil conservation and nutrient pollution reduction techniques on their farms.”
Senator Cardin led the effort in the Senate to include the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative in the 2008 Farm Bill. He has also been a consistent advocate for full funding of conservation assistance for Maryland farmers.
Supported by the National Farmers Union, the bill introduced by Senator Casey is designed to help farmers and foresters improve the quality of water throughout the watershed, boosting local and regional economies. Specifically Casey’s bill would:
- Reauthorize and fund the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative through 2018. The Initiative guarantees that conservation funds will be used in the Chesapeake basin and the funds come from the Commodity Credit Corporation, making them mandatory spending.
- Allow USDA to better assist States in developing their water quality goals. Provides a new level of technical assistance to farmers and explicitly allows for technical assistance from non-government agents
- Allow USDA to help farmers prepare to participate in water quality trading programs and help States prepare for interstate trading. Provides assurances that farmers who are practicing good conservation techniques will be protected from unwarranted enforcement actions.
- Enable farmers and foresters in the watershed to better compete for federal funds under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, with a length of 200 miles and 11,684 miles of tidal shoreline, more than the entire U.S. West Coast. About 100,000 streams and rivers thread through the Chesapeake’s 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to almost 17 million people across Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Chesapeake Bay supports more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and animals. Twenty-five percent of lands within the watershed are used for agricultural purposes.