Sarbanes Leads Effort Urging USDA to Prioritize Chesapeake Bay Health and Help Farmers Reduce Pollution

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force Co-Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today joined U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.), fellow Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force Co-Chair Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers representing the Chesapeake Bay region in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue investing in the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

In a letter to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Matthew Lohr, the Members underscored the importance of supporting the region’s farmers in their efforts to reduce pollution. The Members also offered recommendations for the USDA as it prepares a final rule to implement the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

In 2018, Congressman Sarbanes supported the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act, which passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill and included $300 million in mandatory funding for RCPP – significantly increasing investment in the Bay region.

“As you know, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s financial and technical assistance for conservation efforts plays a critical role in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed and supporting states’ efforts to meet their commitments under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by 2025,” the Members wrote. “These programs are essential to support farmers throughout the region as they adopt best management practices to limit the runoff of nitrogen, sediment and phosphorus and to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

The Members also lay out four major recommendations to help ensure the continued success of RCPP throughout the region. These recommendations include:

  1. Ensuring that the Chesapeake Bay Watershed remains designated as a Critical Conservation Area (CCA);
  2. Highlighting the need for administrative and financial support for partners in the implementation of RCPP;
  3. Increasing clarity and transparency for reporting requirements on conservation goals and outcomes; and
  4. Aligning Chesapeake Bay conservation goals to ensure that targeted efforts continue to improve the health of the Bay.