(Posted Thu. Sep 15th, 2016)
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack celebrated the contributions farmers have made to improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay recently, proclaiming that the six states in the watershed lead the United States in conservation practices.
Vilsack made the announcement last Friday at Y Worry Farm in Davidsonville, Maryland, where he was joined by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller, National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling, Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder, and other farmer-leaders and government officials.
"NCGA is proud to play a role in this event because it showcases the work of Maryland farmers in improving water quality, and serves as a model for conservation strategies nationwide," said Bowling of Newburg, Maryland, which is located in the watershed. "We are driving documented, positive change through our cooperative efforts and that is worth celebrating."
Vilsack noted that 95 percent of the watershed's cultivated acres have at least one conservation in place, which he called "an extraordinary achievement unmatched anywhere in the United States."
The Chesapeake Bay watershed, which is the nation's largest estuary, spans Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York.
As NRCS Chief, Weller oversees USDA programs that help protect the environment, preserve natural resources, and improve agricultural sustainability through voluntary, private-lands conservation. He commended farmers in the Chesapeake Bay region for their leadership on conservation stewardship.
"If you look at what producers are doing here in the bay, in the whole region, across all six states, it's one of absolute leadership. One of dedication, of an investment, of quiet and proud stewardship. And the results are profound," said Weller.
In May, University of Maryland researchers gave the bay a "C" on its annual report card, its highest grade since 1992.
Voluntary incentive programs, such as expanded use of cover crops and investing in new equipment, have helped Bay-area farmers modernize their operations and employ innovative approaches.