Cardin discusses conservation ideas while visiting Md. farm

COCKEYSVILLE, Md. (June 17, 2014) — “Decisions about conservation must be made at the local level.”
“I am committed to helping our farmers and committed to helping the Chesapeake Bay. I am confident that we can do both effectively.”
Under the canopy of those two statements of purpose, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin informally convened a gathering of farmers and conservation officials at a Baltimore County farm on June 6 to discuss the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program and its potential impact on efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay.
Cardin is a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee.
He was joined by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller, and Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Earl “Buddy” Hance.
They visited a local Baltimore County farm and met with national and state conservation partners for a kickoff of the new RCPP which names — and provides funding for — the Chesapeake Bay as one of eight critical conservation areas in the United States.
Cardin, Weller and Hance were joined by leaders from the National Association of Conservation Districts and the Maryland Soil Conservation Districts for a first-hand look at conservation practices being used locally by farmer Hank Suchting.
Cardin then hosted a roundtable with local farmers and potential recipients of funds through the RCPP.
“Maryland farmers understand how valuable a healthy Chesapeake Bay is to our region and our nation,” Cardin said. “We need to spread the word about what federal and state cost-sharing and in-kind resources are available that will benefit their farming operation.
“Decisions about conservation must be made at the local level. RCPP brings conservation groups, cities and townships, sportsmen groups, universities, agricultural associations and businesses together to do just that,” said NRCS chief Weller.
“This historic conservation program will leverage existing strong partnerships within our watershed to fund innovative projects that address conservation needs and improve water quality, ” Hance said.
The RCPP will receive more than $100 million annually in mandatory funds — $400 million for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
Eligible purposes are projects that would be eligible under Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and a few other NRCS conservation programs designed to preserve and protect water quality and water quantity and forested lands.