Despite the federal budget sequestration, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service officials announced on Tuesday that farmers can apply for conservation practice funding under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative. CBWI was recently extended until September 30, 2013, under the Taxpayer Relief Act.
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed consists of all tributaries, backwaters, and side channels and their watersheds that drain into the Chesapeake Bay in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Under CBWI, eligible landowners can use available technical and financial assistance to address soil erosion, sedimentation, and excess nutrients in streams and waterways, as well as other related natural resource concerns such as air quality, wetlands, wildlife habitat, and forestry, according to Barry Frantz, assistant state conservationist in Pennsylvania. Farmers and forest landowners are planting stream buffers, restoring wetlands, properly managing manure, and implementing other conservation practices as part of CBWI.
Farmers and owners of land being operated by agricultural producers, located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed may apply. Click on the accompanying map to see the enlarged coverage area.
Some watersheds in Pennsylvania are designated as high priority watersheds in this initiative because they have high yields of nitrogen, phosphorus, intense agricultural operations, and local water quality impairments. to see a map of Pennsylvania's portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the priority watersheds, click here.
Applications for CBWI are accepted, ranked, and prioritized based on their potential to control erosion and reduce sediment and nutrient levels in local waters and the Chesapeake Bay. Applications are collected and evaluated monthly until funds are exhausted.
~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~Eligible producers operating in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed can sign up for specific practices under the CBWI and receive additional consideration in the ranking process, says Mikel Williams-Hawkins, NRCS program specialist for Maryland. "Last year, we [Maryland] obligated more than $7 million to help agricultural producers improve Chesapeake Bay water quality."
"While we accept applications throughout the year, it is important to remember that funding selections are made at specific times. For CBWI, those dates are March 15, April 19, and May 17." With the current federal budget crisis and a new farm bill still being written, at this point, there's no guarantee beyond September 30.
Separate fund pools have been established for socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers. Applications from high priority watersheds will also receive additional consideration in the ranking process. NRCS administers the initiative as part of its Environmental Quality Incentives Program.