Draft Report: Conservation Efforts Working for Chesapeake Area

October 29, 2010 Bookmark and Share

A recent draft report from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) underscores the importance of conservation practices undertaken by agricultural producers in efforts to improve the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The report, titled “Assessment of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Chesapeake Bay Region,” is the second in a series of Conservation Effects Assessment Projects (CEAPs) on the relationship between cropland and major U.S. river basins.

These reports underscore the critical relationship between healthy watersheds serving as an abundant source of clean water and vibrant soil- and nutrient-conserving working croplands.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed covers 68,500 square miles in parts of six states in the mid-Atlantic region as well as the District of Columbia. It is the largest estuary in the United States and, in many ways, a precedent-setting region in which environmental groups, farmers and the government have worked for years to improve water quality.

Agricultural land makes up less than 30 percent of the area in the watershed, of which only approximately 10 percent is cultivated cropland, the focus of the CEAP draft report.

While more can and will be done in terms of sediment and nutrient loads delivered to the Chesapeake Bay, the draft CEAP report shows conservation practices on cultivated cropland are working.

Through partnerships with local landowners and operators, sediment loads delivered to the Bay from cultivated cropland have been reduced by 14 percent, phosphorus loads by 15 percent and nitrogen loads by 15 percent. The report says these significant reductions point to the additional gains that can be achieved through targeted investments in conservation practices.

NAWG and NAWG-affiliated state wheat associations in the region, including the Virginia Grain Producers Association and the Maryland Grain Producers Association, are actively working with other agricultural partners to help legislators craft appropriate policies with regards to Bay revitalization.

Ag groups, in general, believe building upon existing conservation programs’ successes and incentivizing producers and other private landowners to undertake voluntary measures are important steps to achieving environmental goals in the Bay watershed.

The full report is accessible online at ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/NHQ/nri/ceap/ceap_chesapeake_bay_report.pdf.

Comments on the report can be provided until Nov. 22 to Dr. Robert L. Kellogg, with NRCS’ Resources Assessment Division, at robert.kellogg (at) wdc.usda.gov.