The bill, H.R. 4153 or the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act, is very similar to a bill the Members introduced in the last session of Congress, which achieved passage by the House Agriculture Committee.
The legislation would set up a number of mechanisms NAWG and other farmer groups believe would allow the Chesapeake Bay region to maintain a robust farm economy while working to achieve water quality goals.
The bill would establish an interstate nitrogen and phosphorous credit trading system for the Chesapeake Bay and a grant program for states working to adhere to total maximum daily load (TMDL) requirements. It would also seek to set up a nutrient management plan that considers load allocations on a monthly, seasonal or annual basis, versus on a daily basis.
To help achieve water quality goals, the proposal would provide for conservation technical assistance from USDA. The measure would also establish a “safe harbor” provision for farmers who undertake program efforts in good faith.
Rather than vesting oversight of Bay improvement efforts solely to federal regulators, the proposal would set up an independent advisory committee to review past Chesapeake Bay initiatives and progress toward water-quality goals.
The bill is, in part, a response to proposals to establish mandatory TMDLs in the Bay region and, eventually, throughout the United States.
It is also an effort to help bolster the significant efforts farmers in the Bay region are already undertaking to improve water quality, many with the assistance of USDA conservation programs.
More about the legislation is available at www.wheatworld.org/environmentalregulation.