Thursday, May 21, 2015

Casey Urges USDA To Increase Support For Farmers To Meet Anti-Pollution Goals

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.) have written to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack encouraging more federal support for farmers’ efforts to prevent pollution into the Susquehanna River Basin and Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  
In their letter, the Senators are seeking a greater commitment of technical and financial resources to help farmers meet anti-pollution goals.
The recent Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint revealed that overall progress to reduce pollution in the Susquehanna and Chesapeake is improving. But the report details the need to achieve more significant reductions in nitrogen pollution from Pennsylvania’s agricultural sector.
“The Susquehanna River Basin is one of our state’s great treasures and it’s important that we take appropriate steps to protect it,” Senator Casey, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee said. “It’s incumbent upon USDA to give farmers the necessary tools to help in the effort to improve water quality in the Susquehanna River and its tributaries.”
"We are committed to helping our farmers and committed to helping reduce the amount of pollution that reaches the Susquehanna River Basin and Chesapeake Bay Watershed. We can do both effectively, with the right resources,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“CBF shares the concerns voiced by Sen. Cardin and Casey in their letter to Secretary Vilsack,” said Kim Coble, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration.  “We agree it is crucial that USDA provide more resources and technical assistance and target them to farmers in the Susquehanna River basin so Pennsylvania can fulfill its Clean Water Blueprint commitments.
“We know Pennsylvania farmers want to reduce runoff from their farms, but they need more support. And we have every indication that Gov. Wolf and his administration are making the Blueprint a priority. But Pennsylvania is relying upon farms to achieve the vast majority of the state’s nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reduction targets. It’s therefore crucial that USDA play a more proactive partnership role to help farmers and Pennsylvania reach these goals.
“Fully implementing the Blueprint will restore clean water and provide tremendous economic benefits across Pennsylvania approaching $40 billion a year, according to a 2014 CBF report. Much work has been done, but greater investments are needed now to implement proven conservation practices on Pennsylvania farms. We applaud Sen. Cardin and Casey’s leadership and look forward to Secretary Vilsack’s response.”
Recent analyses by EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program found that Pennsylvania is greatly lagging in efforts to reduce runoff from agricultural fields. The report said Commonwealth farmers must dramatically accelerate use of conservation practices if Pennsylvania is to meet pollution reduction goals of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the regional plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.
A copy of the letter is available online.

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