With time running out September 30 on a federal program that provides $50 million this year for pollution reduction projects on farms in the Bay region, the U.S. House leadership has now cancelled most of the remaining voting sessions before election day on November 6.
That means there is “little hope” that the federal Farm Bill will be renewed before the elections, the online environmental news journal E & E reports. If that happens, it will mark the first time in decades that this major source of funding for farms and food programs nationally (which Congress must re-approve every four years) has run out without any good prospects of a political compromise to keep it operating. Heatedly anti-government rhetoric in the House is partly to blame.
After the smoke from the election clears, however, there is a possibility that the House and Senate could end their gridlock and re-approve the Farm Bill, perhaps in the lame duck session before January.
Whether Congress acts this winter, or early next year, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes it is vital that the Farm Bill be re-authorized with conservation funding to reduce farm runoff in our region.
Back in 2008, CBF and our allies helped add to the Farm Bill a new section called the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, which authorized $23 million for Bay region pollution control projects in 2009, $43 million in 2010, $72 million in 2011, and $50 million in 2012. With this money, farmers receive partial reimbursement for projects to build manure containment pits and fences to keep cattle out of streams, as well as to plant strips of trees along streams, to absorb runoff pollution, among other efforts.
This funding is necessary for the Chesapeake region states to meet new EPA pollution limits for the Bay. The states have launched plans that are blueprints for cleaning up the Bay, but these blueprints will be difficult to put into action without federal money for farm runoff control projects.
The legislative forecast remains unclear for the next several months. But no matter what happens, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation strongly believes that these federal cleanup funds need to keep flowing to our region’s farmers.
Doug Siglin, Director of Federal Affairs for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, suggested that voters who care deeply about clean water should contact their representatives. “People should continue to push their Congressmen and Congresswomen to make sure this money is available for farmers, so they can make the pollution reductions needed for the Bay,” Siglin said.
For more information about the Farm Bill, click here.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
(Photo from Chesapeake Bay Program)