Farmers in other bay watershed states share Va. producers’ concerns about bill

RICHMOND—The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2010 has Virginia farmers and their counterparts in other states concerned about their futures.

The bill, aimed at restoring water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, would affect six states and the District of Columbia.

The bill, also known as S. 1816, is sponsored by Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland. Farmers have said it has the potential to place undue financial burden on farms and communities throughout the bay watershed.

"The Cardin Bill would be bad for more than just farmers," said Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. "People today are demanding a local food supply, and this bill would drive farms out of business in the bay watershed. It would, in turn, reduce the local food supply. It would restrict new development, homes, new schools and even hospitals. It would, in fact, affect everyone in the watershed."

Farmer Bureau leaders have asserted that S. 1816 places the goal of bay restoration above all economic and social considerations. It also would impede states’ independent authorities to plan for the development and use of land and water resources.

"The Cardin bill would not affect only states in the bay watershed area," said Ed Jestice, president of the Delaware Farm Bureau. "This is a pilot program that would eventually affect all farmers in the United States."

Farmers are not opposed to protecting the bay, Jestice noted. "In Delaware, since 1999 we have had a nutrient management plan on all our farms in the state. I operate an average-size farm; we farm 1,000 acres and have a poultry operation. I have stacks of nutrient management books I refer to daily to give me guidance. These plans show me how to be a good steward of the land."

Shaffer concurred. "I have lived along the Susquehanna River for 60 years, and I have seen an evolution to this river," he said. "River rocks had been orange from mine acid; now the Susquehanna River is one of the best largemouth bass rivers in the world."

In Pennsylvania, Shaffer said, 50 percent of all farmland is no-till, which helps prevent nutrient runoff. Pennsylvania farmers also plant more cover crops than those in any other state.

"One of the other ways the Keystone State has been progressing in environmental stewardship is that in the 1990s there were 2,000 acres with nutrient management plans. Now there are 1.3 million acres under nutrient management plans," Shaffer added. "This was all voluntary by the farmers of Pennsylvania."

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and other state Farm Bureaus in the bay watershed have voiced support for another cleanup bill—H.R. 5509, the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act—which is sponsored by Reps. Tim Holden of Pennsylvania and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.

"This bill would be helping farmers to restore the waters," Schaffer said. "It would use the EPA as an advisor instead of a heavy-handed regulatory agency. There is the option, made up of common sense, that would provide for the clean up we are already doing now as an industry."

Contact Schaffer at 570-204-0122, Jestice at 410-726-0122 or Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations, at 804-290-1024.

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