Great Falls. Photo by Annette Conniff.
About CBF's Federal Affairs Office
The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and has been the focus of federal regulatory and restoration efforts for decades. As the water quality in the Bay declined to historic lows, CBF opened its Federal Affairs office and increased its pressure on Congress and the Administration to Save the Bay.
In 2009, the President signed Executive Order 13508 which greatly increased the commitment of 11 federal agencies to implement the Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. In 2010, the EPA set limits for 3 pollutants entering the Bay and established the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint (legally known as the TMDL and state watershed implementation plans).
CBF works closely with Congress and several federal agencies to protect the Blueprint and secure policies and funding needed by states, municipalities and local governments to implement it and restore the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers and streams that lead to it.
Update: What You Need to Know About the Farm Bill
You may have noticed the federal Farm Bill has been in the news quite a bit recently. This bill is extremely important because it can support agricultural conservation practices, which are the most cost-efficient way to reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.
CBF continues to work closely with members of Congress, urging them to support farm bill funds that will help Bay farmers save local rivers, streams, and the Bay. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
To help you navigate through all the noise, here's a quick rundown of what's happening with this program that is so important to Bay farmers as well as to everyone rolling up their sleeves to implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint:
- The House and Senate Agriculture Committees are working on a new Farm Bill;
- The Chesapeake Bay delegation in both the House and Senate have negotiated hard for support of Bay state farmers in the new bill, writing letters to House and Senate Agriculture Committees and urging their support of specialized, technical programs, which support farmers in areas of critical need, such as the Chesapeake Bay region;
- As you may recall, last year the Senate passed a Farm Bill, but the House failed to do so. This year, CBF has staked out a position in support of last year's Senate language and has encouraged the Chesapeake Bay delegation to do the same. Many have. We have also worked with a coalition of national and regional conservation groups to create a set of "Conservation Principles" that include support for last year's Senate language;
- CBF continues to work closely with members of Congress, urging them to support Farm Bill funds that will help Bay state farmers save local rivers, streams, and the Bay.
Meanwhile, the FY14 Budget and Appropriations process is moving forward as well. Congress is deciding how much funding it will give to conservation programs for October 1, 2013, to September 30, 2014. Several weeks ago, the House Chesapeake Bay delegation wrote a letter to the Appropriations subcommittee urging there be no cap on farm bill funding for specific programs such as the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI) and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The letter stated: "Despite financial strain, states have met many of their 2-year milestones and we are beginning to see real progress. We must continue a strong federal investment to bolster state efforts."
CBF is committed to clean water in our Bay, rivers, and streams for us and future generations. We're grateful for your support and will continue to work and walk the halls of Congress to keep clean water and a healthy Chesapeake Bay at the forefront of our representatives' minds. We will keep you posted as things progress on the Hill!
Learn more about how farm bill-supported conservation programs help farmers and the Bay in our Farmer Success Stories blog series.
The Federal Farm Bill provideds funding that offers farmers financial and technical assistance to implement best management practices, such as contour farming (above) to improve the health and productivity of their farms and local waterways. Photo courtesy NRCS Maryland
The Federal Farm Bill
May 2013 Update: What You Need to Know About the Farm Bill
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI) was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill (aka the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008). This once-every-five-years federal farm bill should have been finished by September 30, but wasn't. Roughly $250 million in financial and technical assistance for farmers is at stake. This important conservation funding is needed to implement the erosion and nutrient pollution controls that will help achieve the Clean Water Blueprintgoals. CBF continues to weigh in strongly with senators and representatives, asking that Congress finish the farm bill and provide this important conservation funding.
These controls are called agricultural "best management practices," or BMPs. They include fencing off streams, planting stream buffers, rotating crops and cattle, using manure management technology, just to name a few examples. The benefits to both farmers and the Chesapeake Bay region are three-fold:
- they improve soil quality and animal health,
- they help farmers do their part to restore water quality and wildlife habitat,
- and they improve the farm's profitability and sustainability.
Farmers are eager to improve their farms and conservation program support is in great demand. Even with the CBWI, conservation program funding continues to fall short. Each year there are more requests for conservation project funding than can be met.
Did you know that reducing pollution from farms is the most cost effective way to reduce the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution so detrimental to the health of our waterways? It costs a sewage treatment plant $10 and a farmer $1 to reduce the same amount of pollution.
Today, the Bay states are developing plans to reduce pollution flowing into the Bay, its rivers, and streams. Each plan calls for everyone, from sewage treatment plants and construction companies to farmers and urban residents, to do their part. And in today's economy everyone is looking for the most cost effective solutions. It's clear that conservation program funding, which requires farmers to contribute their own money and sweat as a match, has never been more important.
And conservation funding doesn't just benefit farmers and clean water, it is critical to rural economies. In Virginia, a study determined each public conservation dollar spent spins off $1.56 in local economic activity. In addition, if funded statewide to meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals, these programs could generate more than 11,700 new Virginia jobs of a year's duration.
Thriving, well-managed farmlands are especially important in the Chesapeake Bay region because they are vital to the long-term health of the Chesapeake and its rivers and streams, contribute significantly to the region's economy, and create jobs that stay here at home.
- In Maryland, agriculture contributes almost $8 billion annually to the state's economy. Approximately 350,000 people are employed in some aspect of agriculture, making it the largest commercial industry in Maryland. It also remains the largest single use of land in the state, accounting for one-third of the state's total land area. In 2007, Maryland's total farm production revenue exceeded $2.38 billion.
- In Pennsylvania, agriculture generates more than $6 billion annually with 63,000 families working more than 7.7 million acres of land. In total, agriculture and related industries contributed more than $60 billion to the state's economy.
- In Virginia, agriculture and related industries are valued at more than $55 billion, sustain more than 350,000 jobs, and work more than 8 million acres of land.
May 2013 Update: What You Need to Know About the Farm Bill
Learn more about the 2008 Farm Bill (PDF 0.24MB)