Carper, Coons, Carney Announce Assistance to Agricultural Producers to Improve Water Quality in Chesapeake Bay Watershed

WILMINGTON, Del. – Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Congressman John Carney (all D-Del.) announced the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide assistance to agricultural producers to make conservation improvements that will improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Funding is provided through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Now in its third year, NWQI expanded to include more small watersheds across the nation, and it builds on efforts to target high-impact conservation in areas such as the Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River basin, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes. Overall the USDA is providing $33 million to improve water quality in 174 watersheds.

“One year ago, I announced water quality improvements in the Chesapeake Bay that were a result of partnerships forged over a decade ago between the agriculture, environment and government sectors to make changes to agriculture industry practices,” said Sen. Carper, who as governor of Delaware in 1999 formed the Nutrient Management Commission with the goal of decreasing the amount of total maximum daily loads that flowed into the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  “These positive results are evidence that we can have both a clean Chesapeake Bay and sustainable, profitable farming on the Delmarva Peninsula. Federal support to agricultural producers to instill conservation practices is a good investment that is paying off, but there’s still progress to be made. This funding will continue our decades-long efforts to improve the water quality for years to come.”

“Working together to continue to protect Delaware’s natural resources, especially our waterways, makes plain sense from an aquaculture, agriculture and wildlife perspective,” said Sen. Coons. “Last year’s report from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service have shown how successful these programs have been by reducing nutrients in the water. Since 2006, when farmers adapted these practices, nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has been reduced by 26 percent, phosphorus by 46 percent, and sediment by 60 percent. This support from the USDA will continue to provide assistance to agricultural producers to make conservation efforts that will improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.” 

“Delaware farmers have a long history of working to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Congressman Carney.  “The funding announced today helps them build on the progress that’s been made in reducing the flow of nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay, and continue taking important steps necessary to protect the environment.  I look forward to seeing even more improvement.”  

The Chesapeake Bay’s watershed is 64,000 square miles, includes parts of six states, including Delaware and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia, and is home to more than 17 million people. Ongoing efforts to improve the water quality of the bay intensified following President Obama’s executive order in 2010 that required the EPA to put a “pollution diet” plan in place for the Chesapeake Bay that included implementation plans for all states in the watershed. The plans are to drastically reduce total maximum daily loads of nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed by 2025.

Eligible landowners will receive assistance under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for installing conservation systems that help avoid, trap and control run-off in these high-priority watersheds. These practices may include nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, and in some cases, edge-of-field water quality monitoring.

Through several different processes, NRCS and partners are measuring the effects of conservation practices on water quality. Edge-of-field monitoring and an NRCS tool, Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff, help landowners assess the positive impact of their conservation efforts.