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Bay Advocates Concerned About PA Funds in New Farm Bill

October 24, 2011

HARRISBURG, Pa. - As a new national farm bill is considered in Congress, there is concern that Pennsylvania farms and municipalities could lose vital funding. The bill is reworked every five years, usually with hearings and public input, but this year, it's being rolled into the budget duties being taken on by the so-called "Super Committee."

Doug Siglin, federal affairs director with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says the new process could jeopardize farm bill funding for vital conservation programs, including the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), which helps control runoff and other pollution that starts upstream and ends up in the Bay.

"We're concerned that program might get dropped and that Pennsylvanians might not even get the opportunity to say very much to their representatives about how important that program is to them."

He says most farms, and cities and towns for that matter, need all the federal help they can get when it comes to Bay pollution reduction.

"Municipalities, townships are going to have to upgrade their wastewater treatment plants and their urban runoff, and farmers are going to have to get their fertilizer under control, and they're being asked to lay out capital to do all those things."

It appears Pennsylvania does have some factors in its favor. Republican Senator Pat Toomey sits on the Super Comittee, and there are three other Capitol Hill lawmakers from Pennsylvania who are close to the issue.

"That's Senator Bob Casey and then Tim Holden and Glen Thompson. Presumably, they're going to be looking out for Pennsylvania's interests and going to be pushing the Super Committee to include things that are in Pennsylvania's interests."

Siglin says that even as it stands now the CBWI doesn't have enough funding on hand to help farmers who want to manage their runoff. He says ending the program would cripple efforts to improve water quality in Chesapeake Bay.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA