Federal Update - July 2018

All FY18 Federal spending bills expire at the end of the Fiscal Year on September 30, 2018, as does the current Farm Bill, which passed in 2014. The Coalition is working to support the Senate passed Interior Appropriations Bill as well as the Senate passed Conservation Title of the Farm Bill.

Appropriations:

The House passed FY19 Interior Appropriations Bill funds the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program at $73 million – the highest amount ever in the House. It also includes $6 million for the Chesapeake Small Watershed Grants and $6 million for the nutrient and sediment reduction grants – both currently administered by National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. The Bill itself, however, cuts overall EPA spending and has some very bad environmental riders, including Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) amendment to prevent EPA from enforcing the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. No Democrats voted for the final passage of this bill on the House Floor.

The Senate’s Interior Appropriations Bill just passed overwhelmingly on the Senate floor on August 1, and the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program has the same funding as in the House bill - $73 million and $6 million for each of the two grant programs. The bill also contains report language criticizing the Administration for ignoring a directive to keep Federal offices working on Chesapeake issues co-located in Annapolis. This seems to already have led to an agreement to keep EPA, U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service Chesapeake Offices all co-located in Annapolis.

The two bills also fully fund the Chesapeake Gateways Program –$2.02 million and contain some generic language that will likely make USGS Chesapeake work whole at $12.6 million.

Farm Bill:

The Senate Farm Bill Passed 86-11 on June 28 and House Farm Bill passed 213-211 on June 21 (after failing to pass on May 18)

The House bill has a lot of very bad provisions including:

  • Controversial SNAP (aka Food Stamps) workfare provisions that caused 0 Dems to vote for it in Committee and both times on the floor
  • Cuts $795 million in conservation funding over 10 years
  • Guts the Clean Water Act regarding regulation of pesticides
  • Weakens the Endangered Species Act
  • Seeks to exempt NEPA requirements for activities on Federal Forest lands
  • And others…

The Bill does have a number of good provisions in the Conservation Title – such as substantially increasing funding for EQIP; and increases for ACEP and RCPP; increased CRP acres; etc.

In contrast, the Senate Farm Bill has:

  • NO onerous controversial provisions for SNAP
  •  NO bad environmental riders
  • NO overall cuts to conservation funding

AND the Senate Bill contains two key provisions that are very important to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) – incorporates almost all of Sen. Van Hollen’s Ches. Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act (S. 2139 & H.R. 4420). The Coalition formally endorsed this “marker bill”, virtually all of which was incorporated into the Senate Farm bill.

  • Doubles the amount of mandatory funding for the Program – from $100 million to $200 million.
  • Eases the administrative burdens and confusion that participants had to face in the first 5 years of the program
  • Focuses projects in critical conservation areas (CCA), such as the Ches. Bay watershed, on conservation practices that benefit water quality.
  • AND the biggest change, is eliminating one of three funding pools (nat’l)  and folding that funding into the CCA and State pools – so CCAs will get 60 percent of the funds, rather than the current 35 percent. This doesn’t guarantee more funding for the Bay watershed, but it should happen.

Conservation Reserve Enhancements Program (CREP) – The Senate folded in most of Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) CREP marker Bill – generally known as the “buffer bill”. This provision is national in scope but there are big benefits in our region – as an example, the 2014 Ches. Bay Watershed Agreement calls for restoring 900 miles of forest buffers annually – and the states are way behind in meeting those goals. This new CREP is intended to streamline and increase its use in our region. This is program is authorized by acres, not dollars, and calls for at least a 50% percent increase in acres, from 1 million to at least 1.5 million acres.