June 08, 2018

Van Hollen Secures Three Maryland Priorities in Farm Bill

Includes Legislation Introduced by Van Hollen to Fund Bay Clean Up, Support 1890s Land Grant Universities, and Help Veteran and Minority Farmers

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen announced that he has secured three pieces of legislation within the Senate-proposed Farm Bill. The proposed Senate Farm Bill would adopt Senator Van Hollen's plan to significantly increase the funding available under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the successor to Senator Van Hollen’s 2008 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, and makes important changes proposed by Senator Van Hollen to help the program work better for Bay farmers and regional partners to reduce pollution and promote sustainability. The bill also includes the Senator’s Carryover Equity Act and the Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act.
“Providing Maryland’s farmers with the tools they need to succeed is crucial to our state’s agriculture production, the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and our economy. Each of these provisions is central to that work – whether it’s through education and training at UMES or funding to help mitigate pollution and runoff in the Bay. As the Farm Bill moves through the Senate, I will continue to fight for Maryland’s farmers,” said Senator Van Hollen.
On the inclusion of provisions to double mandatory funding and improve the RCCP, part of the Senator Van Hollen’s bipartisan Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act, the Senator said, “Not only is the Chesapeake Bay a national treasure, but a healthy Bay is crucial to Maryland jobs and our economy. This bill will support our farmers by providing them with more resources to reduce agricultural runoff into the Bay. These restoration efforts are key to improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and a healthy Bay is vital to a strong economy based on tourism, the watermen who harvest its bounty, and the boating industry."  The Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act provision would double the mandatory funding available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and would provide more opportunities for effective conservation efforts. This Program helps farmers implement best practices to reduce the need for excess fertilizers, curb runoff into the Bay, and improve sustainability.
On the inclusion of the bipartisan Carryover Equity Act, Senator Van Hollen said, “The University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Historically Black Land-Grant Universities across the country, educate our students in fields ranging from innovative agricultural practices to advanced engineering. Ensuring they have the financial flexibility they need to complete their mission is crucial. This provision will allow Universities to take full advantage of the funding they receive and provide them the flexibility to use it as needed.” The Carryover Equity Act language would fix a provision that prohibits 1890s Land-Grant Universities – all of which are Historically Black Universities – from carrying over more than 20 percent of their equity from one fiscal year to the next. This arbitrary provision limits the ability of these Universities to use their funds as they see fit and notably diverges from policies that govern other similar Department of Agriculture programs.
On the inclusion of the Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act, Senator Van Hollen said, “Whether you’re coming off the battlefield or trying to launch a new career, starting and operating a farm isn’t easy. This provision will help veterans and underserved populations get the training and support they need to succeed. We want to expand America’s farming opportunities, and this is an important tool to accomplish that.” For nearly three decades, the Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been the primary tool to help our nation’s underserved producers gain access to USDA services. This provision would reauthorize, strengthen, and improve the Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program at the USDA.
The full text of the Senate Farm Bill is available here.