WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) joined Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in introducing the bipartisan Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act of 2017. This legislation increases mandatory funding for the Bay, strengthens the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCCP), and provides more opportunities for effective conservation efforts. In addition to Senators Cardin and Van Hollen, Senators Capito (R-W.Va.), Casey (D-Pa.), Kaine (D-Va.), Manchin (D-W.Va.), Warner (D-Va.), Carper (D-Del.), Coons (D-Del.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also joined – and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced the House companion measure. The legislation is supported by Bay State Governors, including Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and more than 70 conservation groups.
“We need to bolster the emphasis in the next Farm Bill on the Chesapeake Bay’s recovery so that our farmers, who are vital partners in the effort, have what they need to engage fully in a wide range of USDA programs and continue strengthening the conservation of the lands they steward,” said Senator Cardin. “The improvements included in this bill, based on the experience of stakeholders, will enable the program to better leverage resources to executive conservation projects designed by local partners. It will make it clear that the Chesapeake Bay, its agricultural landscapes and its producers must be treated as nothing less than national treasures – and national priorities.”
“Not only is the Chesapeake Bay a national treasure, it’s also crucial to Maryland jobs and our economy,” said Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This bill will provide more resources for restoration efforts that are key to the Bay’s health. As we begin work on the Farm Bill, I urge my colleagues to seriously consider this legislation. This investment will help ensure that our Bay economy continues to thrive and that Marylanders and tourists can enjoy this treasure for generations to come.”
“The Chesapeake Bay headwaters in West Virginia sustain important ecosystems and play a vital role in our state’s economy,” Senator Capito said. “This bipartisan legislation will provide essential grant funding for West Virginia, which will go a long way in continuing our efforts to support the bay’s restoration and care, ensuring that it remains a vibrant natural resource for future generations.”
“Farm conservation has been a big part of the progress we’ve made in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay since I was Governor of Virginia,” Senator Kaine said. “The Bay is a perfect example of how protecting the environment can contribute to a successful agricultural sector, and this bill will pave the way for even stronger investments in our region’s agricultural economy, to the benefit of both farmers and the environment.”
“Thousands of Delawareans and millions across our region depend on a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay,” said Senator Carper, top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. “Recently, funding for this environmental and economic resource has been put in jeopardy, and that’s not only irresponsible, but it’s also bad for business. A thriving Bay means a thriving local economy, and we’ve made so much progress toward restoring the Bay that it is shortsighted to stop now. We must continue to properly fund the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, so we can enjoy its economic and recreational benefits for generations to come.”
“Since 2014, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program invested $19.1 million for 6 projects with 88 partners in West Virginia. These projects have improved water quality and benefited the wildlife in our streams and rivers in the Eastern Panhandle. Overall, these investments have improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, without placing an unfair burden on the state,” Senator Manchin said. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation, to provide partners greater resources and ensure we continue to restore the nation’s largest estuary.”
“More than a national treasure, the Chesapeake Bay serves as an economic engine supporting jobs across many industries in the region,” said Senator Warner. “This legislation provides needed resources to our region-wide restoration efforts, which will support the Bay’s vital economic contributions to tourism, recreation, and commercial and sport fishing.”
I am pleased to support this legislation that will help the RCPP work better for farmers in Delaware and the Chesapeake Bay region,” Senator Coons said. “The bay is a national treasure, and farmers play an important role in keeping it healthy for generations to come. This bill will help ensure our region has the resources we need to keep working lands productive while simultaneously protecting the bay.”
In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress authorized the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative to provide assistance to agricultural producers to minimize excess nutrients and sediments in order to restore, preserve, and protect the Chesapeake Bay. On average, approximately $50 million was invested annually in the Chesapeake Bay through in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative. In 2014, the RCPP was created in order to prioritize conservation resources that were previously handled by separate conservation programs such as the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative. Unfortunately, under the RCPP, the Chesapeake Bay has received significantly less funding – averaging around $13 million annually.
The Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act would help restore some of this much-needed funding by tripling the amount of mandatory RCPP funding available per fiscal year from $100 million to $300 million. The bill would also improve technical assistance for partners and prioritize projects that improve water quality and water quantity and implement multi-state watershed restoration plans.