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Friday, May 24, 2024

Farm Bill Funding Impacts Chesapeake Bay Conservation Efforts

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s biennial State of the Bay report gave the bay’s overall health a D+, the same grade it received in 2020. (Adobe Stock)

WASHINGTON — Virginia environmentalists are seeking Farm Bill funding to help Chesapeake Bay conservation efforts.

The proposed Chesapeake Bay Conservation Acceleration Act would fund programs designed to improve water quality in the bay. One program helps farmers prevent runoff which has led to increased nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, driving up harmful algae blooms.

Keisha Sedlacek, federal director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, described how such a program would work.

“That is working on putting forest buffers on the ground,” Sedlacek explained. “And the beauty of that program has been that by simplifying the process for the landowner, we have seen tremendous success in getting buffers planted.”

She hopes a program like it can be replicated across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Apart from a sharply divided Congress, Sedlacek pointed out one challenge to getting this funding is ensuring elected officials outside the region understand the money’s importance. While Congress has until next September to finalize the Farm Bill, she worries delayed action could hamper conservation efforts.

Other federal dollars have also been used to keep conservation efforts alive. But Sedlacek noted there is disagreement over the need for more funding after the Inflation Reduction Act already allocated money for this purpose.

“There’s a big fight over whether or not those stayed in the programs that they were intended to stay in,” Sedlacek cautioned. “We hope that they do. A lot of money went into the USDA conservation programs that help us here in the Chesapeake Bay, so we continue to advocate that the funds should go towards those programs.”

The Inflation Reduction Act allocated $20 billion for Bay-friendly farming practices, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

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