New provision will enable farmers concerned with nutrient run-off to address concerns themselves with funding
The Healthy Waters Coalition, a diverse cross-section of municipal and state water and wastewater organizations, conservation and sustainable agricultural organizations applauded Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) for including resources for agricultural producers who take steps to manage nutrients on their lands and to avoid adverse water-quality impacts in the Senate Farm Bill reauthorization package.
The Coalition recognized and applauded provisions inserted in the newly established Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that will provide greater opportunity for farmers concerned about nutrient run-off from their operations to address these concerns proactively with stable funding over a five-year period of time and with local partnering organizations.
According to State water quality reports, 80,000 miles of rivers and streams, 2.5 million acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds, 78% of the assessed continental U.S. coastal areas and more than 30% of estuaries are impaired due to excessive levels of nitrogen and phosphorus (nutrients). In all, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attributes excess nutrients as the direct or indirect cause of impairments in more than 50% of impaired river and stream miles; more than 50% of impaired lake acres; and nearly 60% of impaired bay and estuarine square miles. For the majority of these waters, nutrient run-off from agricultural lands is the dominant source of the nutrient impairments according to studies by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Over this next decade, the critical challenge facing efforts to restore and maintain clean and safe water is whether excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus (nutrients) in our waters can be reduced.
Critical waterbodies throughout America, such as the Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes, suffer due to excessive amounts of nutrients that cause hypoxic conditions, also known as deadzones, which lead to fish kills, toxic algal blooms, contaminated drinking water supplies and losses to local economies. The RCPP leverages additional resources from state and local partners to offer increased assistance to farmers in these and other important watersheds to help them address the nutrient challenges faced by these watersheds.