Governor, Congressman back alternative bay cleanup bill

DINWIDDIE—Citing the economic importance of Virginia agriculture, the state’s governor and 4th District representative recently voiced support for a House bill to improve the Chesapeake Bay sponsored by Reps. Tim Holden of Pennsylvania and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.

H.R. 5509, the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act, takes a more reasonable approach than a competing Senate bill, said Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-4th. "I think they’ve done a great job with this bill, trying to strike a balance so it will protect our farmers while also doing the things that we need to do to protect and defend the environment," Forbes said Aug. 19 at the annual Dinwiddie County Farm Bureau Legislative Appreciation Day.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, who also attended the Dinwiddie event, said he supports H.R. 5509 because it avoids federal mandates on farmers and local governments that are included in the competing legislation, S. 1816.

"I think the voluntary aspects and the goals that are set in the Goodlatte bill are a far better approach," he said. "It’s got best management practices in there and a number of other things that will help to guide the agriculture industry to contribute to the reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus in the bay. So I think that’s the better approach. It’s one that I’ve written a letter of support for already, and I hope that will be the approach that Congress takes."

Both McDonnell and Forbes noted that, in light of Virginia agriculture and forestry’s $79 billion annual economic impact, it would be foolish to impose unnecessary federal mandates on farmers and agribusinesses.

"The last thing we need, particularly in this tough economy with a high unemployment rate, is for major new federal bills to hurt industry, hurt agriculture and kill jobs," McDonnell said.

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and other state Farm Bureaus in the bay’s six-state watershed are asking their elected representatives to support the Holden-Goodlatte bill as a more reasonable way to work with farmers to further reduce runoff into waterways. H.R. 5509 would use existing federal programs to help farmers expand the use of nutrient management plans on their land; better coordinate the collection and analysis of the bay’s environmental health; and continue to encourage voluntary farm programs instead of federal mandates.

"The Senate bill poses the threat of the Environmental Protection Agency dictating every land-use decision on a Virginia farm," warned VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor. "It uses flawed data to justify the need for more federal control of agricultural practices, and it would set a precedent for allowing federal oversight in every watershed nationwide."

Contact Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations, at 804-290-1024.

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