USDA supports Chesapeake Bay water quality partnerships
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretaries Robert Bonnie and Michael Scuse pledged up to $5 million to state and local partnerships in six states for accelerating tree planting along the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The pledge was made at a summit in Washington, D.C. attended by leaders of Chesapeake Bay water quality restoration efforts.
"Improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay is a top priority of the Obama Administration, and USDA programs can help," said Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Under Secretary Scuse. "We're identifying creative approaches using our existing programs, so that USDA's partnerships with Chesapeake leaders can enhance our mutual goal of preventing soil erosion, improving water quality and restoring wildlife habitat in this region. That's good not only for future generations, but today's generation."
"Voluntary conservation practices made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill enable us to work with farmers who are interested in taking steps to ensure their practices help conserve the Chesapeake Bay Watershed," said Bonnie, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. "These conservation efforts help to clean our soil and water, boost outdoor recreation and provides agriculture with the tools needed to remain productive in the years to come."
The conference marks the start of an accelerated strategy of the Chesapeake Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative to promote the establishment of more forested areas, known as "riparian forest buffers," along streams and rivers of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, providing natural barriers that can filter sediment, chemicals, and other contaminants from entering into the waterway.
The USDA financial assistance will provide more incentives to private landowners interested in participating in the Farm Service Agency's (FSA) voluntary Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Each Chesapeake Bay state has a CREP in place, which collectively cover the entire watershed. To date, about $500 million in USDA financial assistance has been provided or obligated to farmers enrolling land in the six CREPs.
For 25 years, USDA has worked with the six Bay states (New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia) to improve and restore the Chesapeake Bay, with more than 7,000 miles of riparian forest buffers established by private landowners in the Bay states since 1996. In 2013, the CREP's buffers have intercepted an estimated eight million tons of sediment, 16 million pounds of nitrogen, and four million pounds of phosphorus in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
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