Wolf, Chesapeake Guvs. want $737M to help farmers to fight climate change | Wednesday Coffee

The move was welcomed by environmentalists, who say more needs to be done

September 8, 2021 7:10 am

Bird and marsh grass along the Chesapeake Bay. (Image via the Virginia Office of Natural Resources).

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers

The Wolf administration has joined with five other states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to call on the federal government to spend $737 million over the next 10 years to help farmers in those states reduce their runoff intro tributaries that eventually find their way into the bay.

The “Chesapeake Bay Resilient Farms Initiative,” as it’s known, would help farmers in the six states that make up the watershed reduce the amount of nitrogen from their operations.

About 300 million pounds of the pollutant flows into the bay every year. That’s about six times the amount that reached the bay, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an environmental advocacy group that operates in all six states. While some nitrogen is necessary, too much damages the bay’s water quality. The agriculture industry has been tasked with reducing 80 percent of the nitrogen that Pennsylvania discharges into the bay.

Pennsylvania, via the Susquehanna River, provides about half of the bay’s fresh water. State officials say they believe that “targeted investments” in seven counties along the river would allow the state to “achieve half of its reduction goals and restore more than 19,000 locally impaired stream miles.”

Last week, Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joined with officials in other states to sign a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calling on the federal government to pursue the program.

In their letter to Vilsack, dated Aug. 25, the state leaders noted that federal cleanup mandates for the Bay, which provide goals for each state in the watershed, must be met by 2025.

“In agriculture, we not only have the responsibility to harvest food to feed the world, but we have the opportunity to harvest carbon and make a real impact on the climate of the world we leave for the next generation,” Redding said in a statement. “This plan makes implementing conservation practices realistic for our farmers through voluntary cost-share programs that help us to achieve our co-equal restoration goals.”

The program is modeled after the existing Mississippi River Basin Initiative, which already has received federal funding. Officials in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia, which also are part of the watershed, signed onto the letter. The District of Columbia also is part of the watershed.

“Last week, we all saw the devastating and deadly impacts of climate change as Hurricane Ida swept across our nation, leaving it’s mark not only on the hurricane-prone states to the south, but also Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.

“As we rebuild, we need to rethink how we can all do our part to mitigate against climate change,” Wolf continued. “Pennsylvania agriculture has stepped up to the challenge and has a plan, farmers are waiting to jump into action. We just need support, as was provided to the Mississippi River Basin, to get moving.”

Image Source: Creative Commons via Flickr
The Chesapeake Bay (Matthew Beziat/Flickr)

Pennsylvania has long been faulted for failing to honor its clean-up obligations.

In 2020, leaders in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. sued the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency for failing to make sure the Keystone State made its clean-up targets.

The agency’s former head, Andrew Wheelerdismissed the litigation as “frivolous” at the time, arguing that it would hamstring clean-up efforts.

In a statement, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which joined that earlier litigation, along with other environmental advocacy groups, praised Tuesday’s action.

“Increased investments in agricultural conservation practices in Pennsylvania are good for farm productivity and mitigating climate change by keeping soil and nitrogen on the land instead of running into local waters,” the group’s executive director, Shannon Gority, said.

” … Farmers have shown they are willing to invest their time, land, limited funds, and effort to clean and protect local rivers and streams and leave a legacy of healthy soils and clean water,” Gorrity continued, adding that the foundation “appreciates” Pennsylvania’s call to action.

But, she noted, farmers “need greater investments from state and federal sources if they are to expand and finish the job.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

The top Republican in the state Senate says he’s not afraid to bust out the subpoenas if the Department of State fails to show up for Thursday’s scheduled hearing on “irregularities” in the 2020 election, Marley Parish reports.

Also from our “Legislative Time-Wasters” Desk: The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is coming back early from its summer recess to challenge the Wolf administration’s new school mask mandate. Stephen Caruso has the details.

Meanwhile, here on Earth One: More than 2,000 Pennsylvanians are currenty hospitalized with COVID-19, as the state’s moving average of cases has continued to climb, according to new state Department of Health data.

And 10 states, including Pennsylvania, that have struggled to pay the mounting costs of rising unemployment compensation claims during the COVID-19 pandemic will face yet another challenge starting this week: interest accruing on federal loans they relied on to cover payments to the unemployed. Capital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson has what you need to know.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Janice Ellis, a columnist for our sibling site, the Missouri Independenthas the timely reminder that elected officials work for the people, and not the other way around. And with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks just days away, regular correspondent Charles D. Allen has a suggestion on how to honor the fallen.

(Image via  Pittsburgh City Paper)


The Republican race for U.S. Senate took a nasty turn on Tuesday, as candidate Jeff Bartos launched a ‘charged’ personal attack against rival Sean Parnell, the Inquirer reports.

Anti-mask protests were held at Pittsburgh-area schools as a new mandate took effect, the Post-Gazette reports. And some districts complied with the order, while others did not, PennLive reports.

Lancaster County will seek a zoning change in Lancaster Township for a new prison site, LancasterOnline reports.

Some of the oldest victims of clerical sexual abuse are dying without seeing justice, the York Daily Record reports (paywall).

Former President Donald Trump has blasted U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., after the Lehigh Valley lawmaker said the twice-impeached chief executive should not top the 2024 presidential ticket, the Morning Call reports.

Luzerne County’s Board of Elections opened its legal fight against Luzerne County Council on Tuesday, asking a judge to throw out the litigation, the Citizens’ Voice reports (paywall).

Pennsylvania’s 2022 GOP gubernatorial hopefuls see a ‘blueprint’ in Texas’ abortion lawWHYY-FM reports.

As part of a special report, WITF-FM and NPR talk to the family of a Flight 93 victim about their two-decade-long journey through grief. takes a look at the bipartisan pushback against Arizona-style sham election investigations looming in other states, including Pennsylvania.

To help transition to cleaner energy, Pennsylvania needs to expand its gridCity & State Pa. reports, citing a new state report.

Roll Call talks to a U.S. Capitol Police veteran who was a young officer at the time of the 9/11 attacks.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
9:30 a.m., Omni William Penn Hotel, Pittsburgh: Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee
1 pm., State College, Pa: Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing
1 p.m, Gibsonia, Pa.: House Labor & Industry Committee

Gov. Tom Wolf makes a pair of stops in Montgomery County today. At 1:30 p.m. he’ll visit a Norristown elementary school to talk about reopening scools safely. At 2:30 p.m., he heads to nearby Bridgeport, Pa., to tour storm damage.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to regular reader Angela Candori, and to Christen Smith, of the Center Square, both of whom celebrate today.

Heavy Rotation
Rock legend Chrissy Hynde, of The Pretenders, completed her 70th trip around the sun on Tuesday. I was lucky enough to see her a few years back, performing with one configuration of the band. It was transformative. Here’s the classic ‘Brass in Pocket‘ for your Wednesday morning.

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
Writing in The Guardian, columnist Sean Ingle warns that FIFA’s plan for a biennial World Cup is so ridiculous that it might actually happen.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.