Just as several members of Congress are drafting a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs, we talked with several Virginia farm families who have learned how important these conservation programs are both for their and their communities’ livelihoods as well as the health of the environment. The following is the final post of a series of blogs from those conversations adapted from an article in the Essex County Countryside Alliance 2011 Report. Read Part One and Part Two of the series.
Restoring the Chesapeake’s Health
“This view is my incentive for doing a good job,” said David Taliaferro as he looked out over the broad Rappahannock from a bluff next to his mother’s house. It’s clear that his family, the Baylors, and the Hundleys all share a deep commitment to healthy land and water. Bob and Waring Baylor especially love the Rappahannock’s waterfowl, and they are avid Bay anglers who trailer their 21’ fishboat to launch ramps in search of flounder, trout, rockfish, and croakers. “The way we were going [losing fertilizer and soil], it was going to be a disaster,” Jay Hundley said with some passion. “I want to get it [the Bay and its rivers] back the way it used to be, for myself, my kids, my grandkids.”
Indeed, the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program’s most recent Bay Barometer report (2009) shows that agriculture in the Bay watershed is making important, valuable progress. Farmers have reduced nitrogen pollution by 52 percent of the Bay Program’s goals, phos phorus pollution by 50 percent, and sediment pollution by 50 percent. Those numbers represent very good news, for which everyone who loves the Chesapeake and its rivers should be grateful to the region’s agricultural community. The bad news is that the Bay ecosystem is telling us it needs more pollution reduction from all sources—sewage treatment plants, urban and suburban stormwater and septic systems as well as agriculture. The challenge for those of us who like to eat is how to support the Bay region’s farmers in their efforts to reduce their remaining 50 percent.
In the end, the Baylors, Hundleys, and Taliaferros walk their talk, farming in ways that reflect their love of the Rappahannock and its creeks, as well as their need to keep their operations appropriately profitable over the long term. The Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay have certainly benefitted from their conservation practices. The question for them and the Chesapeake Bay conservation community at large is how to encourage other farmers to love their land and water the same way.
—John Page Williams
In a matter of days, several members of Congress will pass along recommendations to the “Super Committee” for a new reduced five-year Farm Bill, which will likely include significant cuts to critical conservation programs. Please help us prevent this from happening. Protecting this funding in the Farm Bill means not only an opportunity for cleaner streams and healthier rivers throughout the Bay watershed, but stronger economies and a growing workforce as well. Please act today for a chance to save this critical funding for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.