Water sector reacts to passage of Farm Bill

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The American Water Works Association is applauding the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee for introducing a bipartisan Farm Bill that recognizes the importance of protecting drinking water sources from nutrient runoff.

AWWA singled out Chairman Pat Roberts, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, and Sen. Sherrod Brown for their commitment to protecting source water. The bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, includes several key measures advanced by AWWA over the past two years.

The bill was introduced just days before an estimated 12,000 water professionals will gather in Las Vegas, Nevada, for AWWA’s Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE18). Source water protection was among the key areas of focus at the conference.

The downstream and public health benefits of conservation programs funded through the Farm Bill are extremely important to all Americans who depend on clean drinking water. The bill includes an important recognition and emphasis of source water protection across the working lands programs in the conservation title. It expands opportunities for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to work with water systems and authorizes increased incentives for farmers who employ practices that benefit downstream water quality and quantity.

The bill makes a strong commitment to overall conservation by maintaining funding at current levels. It also makes an added funding commitment to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and emphasizes source water protection in the program.

“We appreciate the work the Senate Agriculture Committee accomplished,” said Tracy Mehan, AWWA executive director of government affairs. “Our hope is to work with the committee as the bill works its way through the legislative process to include a reservation of funds for source water protection as is included in Rep. Marcia Fudge’s bill, the Collaborative Water and Soil Enhancement Act of 2018, and in the House version of the Farm Bill.”

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. “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,” Mehan said.

AWWA created a whiteboard animation video to more clearly illustrate how the Farm Bill’s conservation programs are key to protecting drinking water sources. It is available on AWWA’s YouTube channel.

NACWA commends Senate committee for 2018 Farm Bill passage

On the clean water side, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) also congratulated the Senate Agriculture Committee for passing the bipartisan Farm Bill out of Committee. Critical for the municipal clean water sector, NACWA says the Senate’s bill provides strong support for conservation programs and includes provisions that can improve opportunities to partner with farmers and landowners in their watersheds, as utilities work to meet their clean water goals and objectives through a holistic watershed approach.

Further, NACWA thanks Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for sponsoring an amendment advocated by NACWA that affirms partnerships between “nonpoint” and “regulated point” sources can advance the goals of the Clean Water Act, as well as benefit the agricultural community and public at large.  As Sen. Grassley noted:

“I’m happy an amendment I put in, which encourages partnership to help water and wastewater utilities find an innovative and low-cost solution to meet the Clean Water Act targets more effectively, was included in the manager’s amendment,” Grassley said during the Committee meeting. “Instead of these utilities building expensive water treatment plants, they can be given credit for programs that lower costs. It’s something that ought to be concentrated on.”

This amendment was also incorporated into the House’s bill, championed by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH).

NACWA has been engaged in the Farm Bill to expand upon and facilitate involvement by public clean water agencies in strategic conservation projects and partnerships that cost-effectively advance the goals of the Clean Water Act. Many NACWA member utilities are engaged in watershed projects, bringing technical and financial resources to the table to advance innovative conservation projects and help connect urban and rural communities.

“On behalf of NACWA’s more than 300 public agency members in 48 states, I applaud the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for advancing Farm Bills that include important water quality provisions,” said NACWA CEO Adam Krantz. “Clean water agencies are looking for innovative, collaborative watershed approaches to advance clean water as cost-effectively as possible, and the Farm Bill is a critical opportunity to help ensure that federal policies and programs support these goals.”

The largest water organizations joined together to helped elevate the crucial role played by the Farm Bill in protecting water quality during the recent 2018 Water Week events. NACWA looks forward to continuing to work with Congress as it works on the Farm Bill over the summer.

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