Senate Agriculture Appropriations Letter

PDF Version: Senate Agriculture Appropriations Letter 
 

March 30, 2017

The Honorable John Hoeven, Chairman
Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations
S-128 Capitol U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Jeff Merkley, Ranking Minority Member Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations
S-146A Capitol U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Hoeven and Ranking Member Merkley:

The undersigned members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition request continued support for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed through the Agricultural Act of 2014’s (2014 Farm Bill’s) conservation programs. There are 87,000 farms in the six-state Chesapeake region; those that are well run protect their water resources and add much to our landscape, environment and economy. We want to ensure that these responsible farms and farmers remain economically viable. Stopping cuts to these conservation programs is critical to maintain and restore clean water to the rivers and streams throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, and for the Bay itself. These programs are essential for regulated agricultural operations to meet federal regulations under the Clean Water Act and help farmers meet state regulations that address both farm health and water quality.

We urge you to maintain full funding for mandatory agricultural conservation programs in Fiscal Year 2018. The 2014 Farm Bill set us on a new path toward clean water in our region, but only if key conservation programs are funded as Congress intended. With the support of much of the conservation community and clean water advocates, the 2014 Farm Bill eliminated nearly a dozen conservation programs (including the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative) and reduced mandatory funding overall to save American taxpayers approximately $6 billion.

Two-thirds of the 18 million people in the Chesapeake region get the water they drink directly from the rivers and streams that flow through the cities, towns and farms throughout our six state, 64,000 square mile watershed. Protecting and restoring clean water is essential for human health and for a robust regional economy. Much of the work and funding necessary to achieve and maintain clean and healthy water in this region would be accomplished through the Farm Bill’s new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). We urge you to provide full funding for mandatory conservation programs that are critical to maintaining a fully funded RCPP. In particular, we urge you to fund the Environmental Quality Incentives Program at $1.65 billion to help willing producers implement conservation practices on their farms.

In May 2014, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed was designated as one of eight Critical Conservation Areas under the new RCPP. For the first four years of RCPP funding, the Chesapeake received $43.18 million for projects all, or partially, in the Chesapeake Bay watershed – this is an average of $10.8 million annually. This is a precipitous drop from the five years of funding from the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative where our region’s producers received an average of $47.6 million annually for conservation practices. This is a huge shortfall for conservation in our region and any further cuts to the RCPP will exacerbate this funding drop off. We urge you to maintain the 2014 Farm Bill’s negotiated mandatory funding levels for all conservation programs, including the RCPP.

In order to follow a common sense path to maintain economically viable well run farms and to have healthy local water and a restored Chesapeake Bay, which is critical for our regional economy, we request full funding for all conservation programs in the Farm Bill for Fiscal Year 2018.

Thank you for your consideration on this very important request to maintain funding for these programs which are critical to both our agricultural community and for clean water throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Please contact Peter J. Marx at 410-905-2515 or peter@choosecleanwater.org with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

1000 Friends of Maryland

Alice Ferguson Foundation

Alliance for Sustainable Communities

Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

Anacostia Watershed Society

Audubon Naturalist Society

Back Creek Conservancy

Blue Water Baltimore

Cacapon Institute

Capital Region Land Conservancy

Catskill Mountainkeeper

Cecil Land Use Association

Center for Progressive Reform

Chapman Forest Foundation

Chesapeake Legal Alliance

Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage

Chester River Association

Clean Water Action

Coalition for Smarter Growth

Conservation Montgomery

Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania

Delaware Nature Society

Ducks Unlimited

Earth Force

Earth Forum of Howard County

Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy

EcoLatinos

Elizabeth River Project

Elk Creeks Watershed Association

Environment America

Environment Maryland

Environment New York

Environment Virginia

Environmental Working Group

Envision Frederick County

Friends of Accotink Creek

Friends of Dyke Marsh

Friends of Lower Beaverdam Creek

Friends of Quincy Run

Friends of the Middle River

Friends of the Nanticoke River

Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River

Friends of the Rappahannock

Goose Creek Association

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake

Izaak Walton League of America

James River Association

Lackawanna River Conservation Association

Lancaster Farmland Trust

Little Falls Watershed Alliance

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Lynnhaven River NOW

Maryland Conservation Council

Maryland League of Conservation Voters

Mattawoman Watershed Society

Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association

Mid-Atlantic Council Trout Unlimited

Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Montgomery Countryside Alliance

National Aquarium

National Parks Conservation Association

National Wildlife Federation

Nature Abounds

New York League of Conservation Voters

New York State Council of Trout Unlimited

Natural Resources Defense Council

Neighbors of the Northwest Branch

Otsego County Conservation Association

Otsego Land Trust

PennEnvironment

PennFuture

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Piedmont Environmental Council

Potomac Conservancy

Potomac Riverkeeper

Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Queen Anne’s Conservation Association

Rivanna Conservation Alliance

Rock Creek Conservancy

St. Mary's River Watershed Association

Sassafras River Association

Savage River Watershed Association

Severn River Association

Shenandoah Riverkeeper

Shenandoah Valley Network

Sidney Center Improvement Group

Sleepy Creek Watershed Association

South River Federation

SouthWings

Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council

Susquehanna Heritage

Trout Unlimited

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper

Upper Susquehanna Coalition

Virginia Conservation Network

Virginia League of Conservation Voters

Waterkeepers Chesapeake

West/Rhode Riverkeeper

West Virginia Citizen Action Group

West Virginia Environmental Council

West Virginia Rivers Coalition

Wetlands Watch

Wicomico Environmental Trust