A marina in Deltaville, which sits near the tip of Virginia’s Middle Peninsula on the Chesapeake Bay. (Sarah Vogelsong/ Virginia Mercury)
Two Chesapeake Bay restoration programs are set to see a bump in funding as part of President Joe Biden’s $5.8 trillion 2023 fiscal year budget, which the administration unveiled last week.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program and technical assistance for farmers enrolled in conservation programs under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), would see a $2.6 million bump from 2022 funding levels to $90.6 million in the 2023 fiscal year.
In a statement last week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation called the programs “essential to restoring the bay and its tributaries” by the 2025 deadline outlined in the 2010 Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
“With less than four years left to meet the Blueprint’s 2025 deadline, CBF is pleased President Biden proposes to increase funding for EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program and USDA conservation technical assistance. Robust funding for both programs is essential to restoring the Bay and its tributaries while we still can,” CBF Federal Executive Director Denise Stranko said in the statement.
As part of the Clean Water Blueprint, Pennsylvania – one of six Bay states – agreed to implement individual plans and milestones to meet pollution reduction goals. Since then, Pennsylvania has fallen short of the goals outlined by the EPA for restoring the bay and its tributaries, lagging far behind other Bay States in terms of its 2025 deadline.
Thirty-four of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and the commonwealth will need to shed a total of 32.5 million pounds of nitrogen and a little less than a million pounds of phosphorus from Bay-bound waterways to meet the requirements outlined in the Clean Water Blueprint.
“The need is greatest in Pennsylvania,” the CBF said in its statement, adding that “agriculture is responsible for making more than 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s outstanding cuts.”
Because of the larger need in Pennsylvania, Stranko said that much of the 2023 funding bump should go toward technical assistance efforts to help Pennsylvania-based farmers.
“We also call on USDA to devote a significant portion of next year’s conservation technical assistance budget to helping farmers in the watershed, particularly in Pennsylvania, adopt practices that improve water quality. Reducing polluted runoff from farmland is the single largest hurdle to restoring the Bay, and nowhere is the need greater than in the Commonwealth,” Stranko said.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed investing $450 million from Pennsylvania’s share of the federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to the state’s Growing Greener III initiative and agriculture conservation programs, such as the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program and the existing Agriculture Conservation Excellence Grant, which the state Department of Agriculture said goes to support clean water and soil efforts.
Shannon Powers, a spokesperson for the state Department of Agriculture, told the Capital-Star that the federal requirements for farms are a “huge ask” for the state’s agricultural producers, noting that Pennsylvania gets less technical assistance funds from the National Resources Conservation Service than other states – a figure that Powers said is “way out of proportion” with the state’s environmental need and the goals set for Pennsylvania by the EPA.
“Pennsylvania farmers do their part to feed us and feed our economy day in and day out,” Powers said. “The Pa. Department of Agriculture would echo the sentiment that more federal dollars are essential to meeting the goals the federal government has set for our commonwealth and our farms.”
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