Water sector lauds passage of Farm Bill

The U.S. water sector is praising Congress for passing a ‘Farm Bill’ that recognizes the importance of protecting drinking water sources from nutrient runoff. The bill will provide important policy and funding tools to better address many of the nation’s water quality challenges through holistic and collaborative watershed approaches.

“This is truly a historic moment for source water protection,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “The policy included in this Farm Bill will direct $4 billion dollars over the next ten years to conservation practices that protect sources of drinking water. AWWA offers its sincere appreciation to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for their commitment to protecting our communities’ sources of drinking water.

“We also must single out Subcommittee Chairman Frank Lucas, (R-Okla.), Subcommittee Ranking Member Marcia Fudge, (D-Ohio), and Sen. Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio), for all they did to advocate for the inclusion of these important policies in the final product,” LaFrance added.

Farm Bill conservation programs, along with partnerships between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, water utilities and farmers, can be key to protecting drinking water sources.

Every one of AWWA’s legislative priorities were included in the final package including:

  • An emphasis on source water protection through all Farm Bill conservation programs;
  • 10 percent of Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation funding directed toward source water protection, an incredible total of $4 billion over the next 10 years;
  • Authorizes water utilities to work with State technical committees in identifying priority areas in each state; and
  • Additional incentives for farmers who employ practices that benefit source waters.

“AWWA believes the ‘downstream benefits’ and public health benefits of these conservation programs make the conservation title of the Farm Bill extremely important to all Americans who depend on clean drinking water,” said Tracy Mehan, AWWA executive director of government affairs. “We look forward to partnering with USDA to maximize the effectiveness of these programs.”

Along with AWWA, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) also applauded Congress for its strong bipartisan support in passing the bill. NACWA says the bill will provide important policy and funding tools to better address many of the nation’s water quality challenges through holistic and collaborative watershed approaches. NACWA played a key role in advancing elements of the Farm Bill that provide critical support for conservation, partnerships between municipalities and agricultural entities, as well as funding for water quality protection.

“NACWA thanks the House and Senate for their hard work and productive engagement over the past two years to ensure the Farm Bill included bipartisan provisions that make important advances in conservation and water quality,” said Adam Krantz, NACWA’s chief executive officer. “The conservation and partnership language in the Farm Bill makes critical strides in acknowledging and encouraging the collaborative work between municipal clean water utilities and agricultural partners to address water quality challenges through holistic watershed approaches that can provide the most effective and cost-efficient water quality improvements.

The Farm Bill also includes important reforms to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which numerous utilities have considered or used since its creation in the 2014 Farm Bill. These include streamlining the application process, providing an expedited renewal process, expanding in-kind match eligibility, increasing the focus on quantification of conservation outcomes, and robust funding.  The Farm Bill also notably includes dedicated funding for source water protection, as well as support for implementing precision conservation practices and tracking conservation metrics. These provisions can help prevent excess nutrients from entering waterways and improve understanding of the impact of certain conservation practices on water quality.

“AWWA began to engage in the Farm Bill process over two years ago to bring more attention to the issue of protecting sources of drinking water through conservation practices funded by the Farm Bill,” Mehan added. “We believe it’s important for USDA to emphasize protection of drinking water sources as part of its overall water quality and water quantity mission.”

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