Thursday, October 28, 2010

USDA report says farmers need to do more to protect Chesapeake Bay

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds major shortcomings in the way farmers in a six-state region are trying to protect the Chesapeake Bay from pollution, despite claims from farmers they are doing their best to reduce pollution. The reports says "while farmers have made 'good progress' in reducing the amount of soil and fertilizer washing off their fields into the bay and its rivers, more pollution controls are needed on about 81 percent of all the croplands," Timothy B. Wheeler of The Baltimore Sun reports. The report says nearly half the region's 4.3 million acres of farmland are "critically under treated" in regard to pollution control.

"The 161-page federal report — the most comprehensive analysis of farm conservation practices in the bay region to date — relies on computer modeling and hundreds of soil and other samples taken across the region, plus a survey of farmers," Wheeler writes. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service released a statement saying the draft report suggests that conservation practices in the Chesapeake Bay are working but "more work remains to be done." The Environmental Protection Agency is working on a "pollution diet" that would require renewed efforts to clean the Chesapeake.

"Farmers and agriculture officials across the region are pushing back against the EPA plan, asserting that they've done more than city dwellers and suburbanites to help clean up the bay and that they aren't getting credit for all their conservation efforts," Wheeler writes. Chesapeake cleanup advocates noted the source of the report may have been the biggest news. "Agriculture has been one of the most reticent groups as a whole," Gerald W. Winegrad, a former Maryland state senator and outspoken critic of farm pollution control efforts, told Wheeler. "Whether it's the local farm bureau or national farm bureau, USDA or Maryland Department of Agriculture, to acknowledge there is a substantial problem to the bay from agriculture, and that current efforts aren't nearly enough." (Read more)

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