WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) have announced $10,774,013 for two conservation projects in Maryland through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This first round of awards follows Senator Van Hollen’s introduction of legislation, that was cosponsored by Senator Cardin, to increase the RCPP funds available to the Bay region. Due to the Senators’ efforts, provisions of this legislation were then included in the 2018 Farm Bill, increasing mandatory funding for the program by $50 million annually and streamlining participation requirements. Over the first four years of the program, Chesapeake Bay projects received a total of $43 million (FY 2014-2017). The latest awards – for Fiscal Year 2019 – invest over $24 million in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“Cleaning up the Bay requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. These funds will help local farmers and landowners reduce runoff and, in turn, improve the health of the Bay. In 2017, we introduced the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act for just this purpose – to drive more funds to where they’re needed most. I’m proud to see our bill working as intended, and we will continue to fight for increased funding to protect and preserve the Bay,” said Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Appropriations and Environment and Public Works Committees.
“The Chesapeake Bay is Maryland’s most important natural resource and it is critical that we restore and protect it for the generations to come. These funds will advance that goal through collaborations with state and local governments, nonprofits, and private sector partners,” said Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “We are committed to fighting for federal investments in protecting our environment, which ultimately benefits all aspects of our state.”
Awards announced for Maryland are as follows:
• $10,000,000 for Achieving Watershed Implementation Plan Goals & Nutrient Management in Maryland through the Maryland Department of Agriculture to deliver targeted solutions to address manure management in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, leveraging partner contributions of $10,045,000.
• $774,013 for Grazing for Water Quality & Soil Health through the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Inc., to increase adoption of rotational grazing systems and complementary practices like livestock stream exclusion, off-stream watering, and forested buffers to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution in accord with Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay restoration goals. This funding will leverage $772,376 in partner contributions.
RCPP uses a partner-driven approach to fund innovative solutions to natural resource challenges. Through RCPP, NRCS and partners work together with private landowners and producers to implement a variety of conservation activities, including land management practices and systems, short-term land rentals, conservation easements and watershed structures. Within the Farm Bill, the Senators secured the following provisions to expand and improve the program:
• $300 million in mandatory funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), an increase of $50 million in mandatory funding per year
• A higher percentage of RCPP funding for Critical Conservation Areas like the Bay – an increase from 35 percent to 50 percent
• Important reforms and technical assistance for partners