A farmer seeds beans in a field. Photo by Carrie Vaughn/CBF Staff
Why the Farm Bill is Crucial to Saving the Bay
February 2015—Farmers and ranchers implement BMPs with critical federal funding support through programs that are authorized in the Farm Bill. However, the President's recently released Fiscal Year 2016 Budget proposes cuts to some of the funding that is essential to these programs. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, along with 34 other organizations, has signed a letter to the House and Senate budget committees urging them to "keep the commitment passed just one year ago to the original and best stewards of the land, America's farmers and ranchers," by rejecting the funding cuts proposed in the President's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget. Read the letter
On February 4, 2014 the U.S. Senate joined the House of Representatives and passed a new Bay-friendly "Farm Bill." The bill includes conservation programs that offer tools and resources for farmers to stop pollution at its source and ensure our families enjoy clean water (see program details below).
America's family farmers are stewards of the earth. For generations they have worked hard to protect our land and water, while producing healthy foods. However, fertilizer used in farming can end up in our rivers and streams, threatening our clean water.
With senators and representatives from all six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, CBF worked hard to make sure this new bill invests in sustainable family farms in the watershed and provides them with the tools and resources they need to protect our legacy: clean water in the Chesapeake Bay in the rivers and streams that feed it.
Our effort was successful: this Farm Bill will help family farmers in our watershed keep valuable fertilizer on their land and ensure we have clean water.
Farm Bill Programs Essential to Bay Conservation
The new bill includes three U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that provide critical tools and resources for family farmers in the Bay watershed: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program/Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
- The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) shares the costs with farmers for installing basic on-farm practices that keep fertilizer on the farm and out of the water. In all watershed states, demand for this program exceeds supply.
- The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). A new program, RCPP makes targeted investments in family farms—particularly those farms located in "critical conservation areas" like the Chesapeake Bay watershed. For example, it will provide additional resources for installing on-farm practices that prevent pollution from entering the water.
CBF will to work closely with Bay farmers to ensure they can participate in this new program. The program enables groups like CBF to help family farmers plan and install specific agricultural conservation practices on their land that are vital to improving local and downstream water quality.
- The Conservation Reserve Program/Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) helps landowners to restore streams that run through their land by installing conservation measures. For example, they plant trees that both stabilize soil on stream banks and create shade that lowers stream temperatures for fish, and they install fences that keep animals—and their manure—out of streams. Learn more about CREP
Find out more about farm conservation and the economy
Learn more about how farm bill-supported conservation programs help farmers and the Bay in our Farmer Success Stories blog series.