Farm bill makes funds available to keep Chesapeake Bay healthy

Fishermen setting out crab pots in the Chesapeake Bay, Photo Date: 5/24/2012 / Photo: Peretz Partensky / CC BY 2.0 / (MGN)

While you may not realize it, the Chesapeake Bay's health is linked to farming.

According to Chesapeake Bay Foundation Scientist Dr. Beth McGee, the newly passed federal farm bill will control the pollution coming into the bay by farmers.

"The bill makes changes to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which funds forested riparian buffers," said McGee. "It would allow them to get money to maintain the buffers which is something, in the past, they haven't been paid adequately to maintain."

According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, these buffers significantly reduce sediment and nutrient runoff and are one of the most cost-effective methods of improving water quality.

In addition to CREP, Chesapeake Bay advocates say there are two more Farm Bill conservation programs that deserve credit for water quality improvements.

The first is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) which 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 other is the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) which helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resource concerns like those in the Blueprint.

McGee said the foundations works a lot in Virginia and The Shenandoah Valley, and increased funding from the Farm Bill puts them one step closer to ensuring families enjoy clean water.