With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, the United States made a historic investment in farmers and ranchers to bolster the transition to climate-smart agricultural practices. The Inflation Reduction Act will direct nearly $20 billion toward agricultural conservation programs, opening the door for more farmers and producers to receive financial or technical assistance to make the transition.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s office of Natural Resources Conservation Services asked for comments on how to best implement the funds provided by the Inflation Reduction Act to support farmers and ranchers in adopting and expanding climate-smart activities and systems.
The Choose Clean Water Coalition provided comments urging the USDA to increase funding to its Chesapeake Bay States’ Partnership Initiative (CBSPI) using these IRA funds. The CBSPI was established in May of 2022 by NRCS and will help Bay farmers implement climate-smart practices to help meet or exceed goals for cleaner water.
This year, the initiative leveraged funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, totaling $25 million.
The Chesapeake region’s states have identified a long-term need of an additional $737 million over the next ten years to meet and maintain the pollution reductions needed from agriculture in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The letter asks for $73.7 million of the IRA funds to be used in the coming year for the CBSPI.
The letter also urges USDA to provide additional technical assistance, along with additional dollars to enable the region’s producers to better utilize and implement the climate-smart conservation practices needed in the region.
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has signed-on in support of the implementation of these funds to the benefit of agricultural conservation programs in the six-state Bay watershed.
According to the Choose Clean Water Coalition, the 83,000 farms in the Chesapeake region are critical to the economy and are responsible for more than $10 billion of agricultural production each year.
After forests, agriculture is the single largest land use in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. However, agriculture is also the single largest contributor of nutrient and sediment pollution to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and accounts for approximately 80 percent of the remaining pollution reductions needed to meet 2025 clean-up deadline.
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed has been designated by USDA as one of eight Critical Conservation Areas nationwide. The watershed stretches across more than 64,000 square miles in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
The two main tributaries of the Bay region begin in West Virginia— the headwaters of the Potomac and James River—and provide drinking water for much of the mid-Atlantic.
Accounting for about 14 percent of the Mountain State’s land mass, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed includes Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, Morgan, Pendleton, and small portions of Preston, Tucker, and Monroe counties.
The Choose Clean Water Coalition is a collective of more than 275 organizations advocating for clean rivers and streams in all communities in the Chesapeake Bay Region.
If you are interested in getting involved with watershed advocacy and restoration in the Chesapeake Bay region, consider becoming a West Virginia Choose Clean Water Coalition member at choosecleanwater.org