Chesapeake farm cleanup fund would get $300M boost under bill

(Delmarvanow.com) -- Farmers on the Delmarva Peninsula and elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay's watershed could get a bigger hand from the federal government to cut pollution.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., sponsored a bill Thursday that triples the amount of money available for agricultural cleanup efforts from $100 million to $300 million.

“This bill will provide more resources for restoration efforts that are key to the bay’s health," Van Hollen said. "As we begin work on the Farm Bill, I urge my colleagues to seriously consider this legislation."

Farms account for about 30 percent of the land in the bay's watershed but represent 42 percent of the nitrogen, 55 percent of the phosphorus and 60 percent of the sediment entering its waters, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

Eight Democratic senators have signed on to support Van Hollen's measure, including Ben Cardin of Maryland and both senators from Delaware and Virginia. 

But it can claim one GOP backer: Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

“This bipartisan legislation will provide essential grant funding for West Virginia, which will go a long way in continuing our efforts to support the bay’s restoration and care, ensuring that it remains a vibrant natural resource for future generations," she said.

Advocates of the bay cleanup said the bill would reverse years of declining funding. The 2008 Farm Bill opened the door to $238 million in Chesapeake-area spending on farms over five years. Beginning in 2014, federal funding fell to 22 percent of its previous level.

"Farmers are doing their part, but they need financial help," said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker.

The bill's filing comes as Congress considers reducing funding for a separate Chesapeake program.

President Donald Trump's budget suggested eliminating the $73 million program; the House responded with a cut to $60 million. The Senate hasn't weighed in yet.

 

 

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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