Farm Bureau rep tells Congress proposed bay legislation could force out agriculture


WASHINGTON—Representing the state’s largest agricultural organization in front of Congress on Dec. 9, Wilmer Stoneman testified how proposed federal Chesapeake Bay legislation would impose a huge burden on farmers.

Stoneman is Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s associate director of governmental relations. He said Senate and House bills to expand and reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program would “impose severe economic hardship to our industry and further increase pressure to the Chesapeake Bay’s most effective and efficient land use—production agriculture—to move out of the watershed.”

Farmers in the watershed have faced many economic hardships already, Stoneman said. Between 1987 and 2007, almost 14 percent of tillable farmland was converted to another use, and 20 percent of all agricultural land was converted to other uses.

Most troubling is that over those two decades the Chesapeake Bay watershed lost 41 percent of its total farms, Stoneman said. “No amount of scientific advance, gain in efficiency or technology will replace the people and families we have lost.”

He explained that most farmers in the bay watershed already are regulated and required to implement mandatory nutrient management programs, setbacks and buffer zones.

“The management practices that will be required to achieve the load reductions called for in the bay Total Maximum Daily Loads will have a high cost and will only take away from the farms’ already-thin bottom line,” Stoneman said. 

He also voiced concern that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s computer model that supposedly tracks efforts to reduce pollution in the bay doesn’t account for existing farm practices paid for in part with federal cost-share money.

“Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have a strong history of being responsible and proactive environmental stewards, both through compliance with existing regulations and through implementation of voluntary conservation practices,” Stoneman said. 

“However, a significant amount of conservation practices implemented by agricultural producers have not been given accurate credit in decision-making models.”

Contact Stoneman at 804-290-1024

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