U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced new legislation to aid farmers and foresters in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Casey’s bill, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Fairness Act, would reauthorize and fund the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative and give the U.S. Department of Agriculture additional authority to provide technical assistance to the farmers and foresters who live throughout the watershed.
“The Potomac and Susquehanna River Basins are critical to Pennsylvania’s economy. This bill will ensure farmers and foresters will continue to thrive, provide Pennsylvanians with local foods and drive the Commonwealth’s economy,” Casey said.
The National Farmers Union praised Casey’s bill, saying, “NFU supports Senator Casey’s legislation, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Fairness Act. As farmers are increasingly answering the call to improve the Chesapeake Bay watershed, it is only sensible that the federal government equally steps up to the challenge by providing technical and financial assistance as well as facilitating strategies like market-based solutions. We are appreciative of Senator Casey’s leadership on behalf of farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”
The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to nearly 17 million residents and covers more than 64,000 square miles. Pennsylvania’s watersheds contribute more than half of the fresh water flowing to the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and its tributaries, such as the Susquehanna River, are important to the region's economy, culture, and outdoor recreation. Twenty-five percent of lands within the watershed are used for agricultural purposes.
Casey’s bill is designed to help farmers and foresters improve the quality of water throughout the watershed, boosting local and regional economies. Specifically Casey’s bill would:
-- Reauthorize and fund the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative through 2018;
-- Allow USDA to better assist States in developing their water quality goals;
-- Allow USDA to help farmers prepare to participate in water quality trading programs and help States prepare for interstate trading; and
-- Enable farmers and foresters in the watershed to better compete for federal funds under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).