Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Effort Successful

US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, recently released a report on the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Effort suggesting that conservation practices and federal conservation programs have significantly reduced pollution and farm runoff in Chesapeake Bay waterways. The report suggests that a long-term plan to clean up the massively polluted Chesapeake Bay is paying off.
Click to see Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Effort Infographic
For the past several years, the US Environmental Protection Agency, working with the US Department of Agriculture and the states of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, has sought to tighten significantly environmental regulations in the Chesapeake Bay. Decades of neglect had led to massive pollution in the bay. Particularly problematic was farm runoff that deposited chemical fertilizers into the bay, increasing nitrogen and phosphorus levels. The increased nutrient runoff helped create low-oxygen dead zones, which have killed off native fish populations.
In an effort to reduce pollution, the EPA implemented various runoff restrictions.  Most controversial was the agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulation.  The policy would restrict the amount of sediment farmers could allowing into Chesapeake waterways.
In addition to EPA regulations, the USDA offered farmers conservation funding and conservation loans, hoping to discourage chemical fertilizer use and reduce runoff.
While farmers have bitterly fought the EPA regulations (attempting to sue the agency, claiming that they overstepped their legal authority), many farmers have embraced the voluntary methods. In his visit, Secretary Vilsack praised the efforts of Chesapeake farmers, claiming that sediment pollution into the bay has been reduced by 15 million tons annually.
The success of the voluntary measures is partly a result of the needs of the farm community. Increasing the availability of conservation loans, offering grants and agricultural subsidies to farmers involved in the cleanup, has given cash-strapped farmers an incentive to embrace conservation and environmentalism. The continued efforts of the USDA and the EPA also suggest that, despite potential federal subsidy cuts, farm loans will continue to be available to farmers involved in conservation programs.
Download an Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort impact statement, or the full report – Impacts of Conservation Adoption on Cultivated Acres of Cropland in the Chesapeake Bay Region, 2003-06 to 2011.
Learn more about USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) or to learn more about agricultural financing opportunities, contact a Farm Plus Financial Loan representative by calling 866-929-5585.