States Call for Increased Investments in Chesapeake Bay Restoration
By: Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder
Imagine this — the year is 2025 and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals have all been met.
Agriculture has decreased sediment pollution by 80% of current levels. Smart conservation and best management practices are in place on farms across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Farmers are providing more food, fuel and fiber than ever before, while also protecting and preserving our natural resources.
This vision for the future can be possible through a coordinated multistate effort, strong federal-state partnerships and more federal funding.
That is why I joined my fellow agricultural leaders from five other Chesapeake Bay-watershed states at the end of August to urge the USDA to create the Chesapeake Bay Resilient Farms Initiative.
I am happy to note that in recent weeks, leadership from state Farm Bureaus have also publicly shown their support for the initiative.
The initiative calls for $737 million in federal funding over the next 10 years to help implement proven, cost-effective conservation practices on farms throughout the watershed.
The project will target sub-watersheds that have the biggest impact on the Chesapeake Bay and provide the greatest sediment reductions. Funding will be used to offer financial and technical assistance to help farmers implement priority conservation practices.
These practices will not only improve water quality, but also will help us strengthen soil health and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a key factor in the fight against climate change. By implementing conservation practices now, we are ensuring that farming operations are also more resilient to the harmful effects of climate change in the future.
As a Maryland farmer myself, I know firsthand just how committed our state’s farmers and producers are to protecting the environment. Here in Maryland, 96% of our farms are family-owned and operated. Every farm family I know wants to ensure the land, soil and environment are better off for the generation that follows.
Voluntary conservation practices implemented by farmers work, and farmers are willing to install them, but more investments are needed to ensure that we continue building on our progress across the watershed. Data shows that as funding increases for cost-share programs, so do implementation rates of conservation practices.
Cost-share programs have worked in Maryland, but more needs to be done, especially for our neighbors to the north.
Pennsylvania is home to the Susquehanna River, the largest tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, and requires nearly 60% more funding to meet the estimated needs.
That is why it is imperative that we create the Chesapeake Bay Resilient Farms Initiative and find funding to support it.
Over the past 30 years, collectively we have reduced nutrient and sediment loads by nearly half. Though great progress has been made, there is still much more work to be done.
Working together through federal-state partnerships, we can create a cleaner, healthier Chesapeake Bay and serve as an example of restoration efforts to others around the world.