On May 12, President Obama issued Executive Order 13508 on Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Protection, the first-ever presidential directive on the Bay. The Executive Order called on the Federal Government to exercise greater leadership and Federal action to restore this great resource.
Today, USDA and other Federal agencies are providing insights into our earliest thinking about possible Federal actions to improve the health of the Bay. This is the beginning of a deliberate and transparent process.
In addition to an annual investment of $90 million and additional $188 million over five years for voluntary conservation programs under the 2008 Farm Bill, under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA is going further by elevating water quality as an important national priority.
Through the 202(b) Report being made available today, USDA recommends a series of important new actions to improve Bay water quality including the following:
· USDA will invest financial resources in watersheds that have demonstrated the highest levels of nutrient loadings, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus. This represents a clear departure from past policy.
· USDA will work with Federal and State partners to focus on high impact practices that show the greatest water quality improvement per dollar invested.
· USDA will accelerate adoption of conservation practices by increasing incentives and coordinating outreach and marketing efforts in order to reach the most critical agricultural areas and generate interest in conservation practice implementation. USDA will use emerging markets for ecosystems services to promote new opportunities for actions such as carbon sequestration, water quality, wetland protection, and habitat development.
· USDA will accelerate development of new conservation technologies through public-private research partnerships and by promoting innovation.
· USDA will implement a sound system of accountability by establishing environmental outcome measures, monitoring and assessing water quality, and using science to adapt the strategy.
As USDA takes these broad steps to improve the health of the Bay, the Department is very concerned about the loss of agriculture and forestry lands in the watershed.
About 25% of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed produces a diverse array of fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, dairy, beef, poultry and other products. Agricultural lands also anchor rural communities and provide important open space, wildlife habitat and other benefits important to the fabric of this unique watershed.
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is currently losing 100 acres of forestland everyday. These forests prevent millions of pounds of nutrients and sediment from reaching the Bay each year.
130,000 new residents per year move into the Bay watershed. For every 8% increase in the population impervious surfaces (roads, parking lots etc.) increase by 41%.
A one-acre parking lot produces about 16 times the volume of runoff that comes from a one-acre meadow.
Agriculture and Forestry are preferred land uses in the Bay watershed. While agriculture has been making positive reductions in nutrients and sediment to the Bay, urban and developed lands have increased pollution levels in recent years.