Report: Agricultural Investments for Bay Cleanup Spur Economy

Farm in Highland County. (Sarah Vogelsong / For The Virginia Mercury)

RICHMOND –Investments in good agricultural practices have economic benefits, according to a report released by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on Wednesday.

The report found that for every dollar spent on improving farmers’ livelihoods in the Chesapeake Bay region, $1.75 is returned in higher sales of goods and services and profits. The investment also supports the creation of approximately 6,673 jobs per year between 2020 and 2025.

“We already know that investing in agricultural conservation yields significant returns in clean water, more productive soil, climate-resilient farms, and healthy fish and wildlife habitats,” CBF Director of Science and Agricultural Policy Beth McGee said in a statement. his. “Today’s report shows that this investment also benefits local businesses and workers.”

The report, prepared by Charlottesville-based Key-Log Economics, looked at what the five states in the Bay watershed — Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and New York — still need to do to meet pollution reduction goals by 2025.

More than 90% of global pollution reduction should come from agriculture, according to the Bay Foundation.

Using the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Chesapeake Assessment Scenario Tool, or CAST, as well as data from the United States Department of Agriculture, the report found the cost of implementing 17 management strategies, including food management plans, forest reserves and waste management. The data was entered into the Regional Input-Output Modeling System from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis to obtain economic indicators.

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For example, the report concluded that the sale of forest reserves would create more jobs for tree planters and more jobs for tree park workers. More jobs will be added to the grocery store where tree planters and nurseries buy their food.

“These results show how investing in conservation can strengthen the local economy and advance the Bay’s revitalization,” Key-Log economist Carolyn Alkire said in a statement.

In Virginia, the report found that $116.1 million invested in BMP would result in an economic return of $191.2 million. In the surrounding areas, if Pennsylvania invested $ 195.7 million, it will return $ 352.5 million. Maryland will receive $41.2 million after selling $23.1 million.

The three countries’ spending would be about 90% of the $375.1 million needed annually for the entire watershed to meet the goals by 2025. The report estimates that $655 million would be needed.

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Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania have put in place fences to keep livestock out of the watershed, have encouraged sustainable grazing and increased grazing by focusing on where livestock can graze and planting trees.

The main driver of economic activity across the watershed was waste management, or the methods of collecting, transferring and storing manure and waste from livestock operations, which researchers found made up 24.1% of the return. Next was nutrient management, bringing in 20% of the economy, followed by cover cropping, at 20.9%.

But the report said some systems are more expensive than others and have additional benefits. An investment of $7.62 in forest reserves can remove pounds of nitrogen from water and provide shade and habitat for wildlife, store carbon and provide additional income to farmers for producing nuts, fruits, forage and honey. By comparison, it would cost $2,350 to install an animal waste management system to remove the same amount of nitrogen.

“Finding investments like forest reserves that are both cost-effective and profitable can, and should, help ensure the best possible outcomes for local water resources and people’s livelihoods,” McGee said.

The report follows the release of the Bay Foundation’s 2022 State of the Blueprint Report, which found that states in the water have no way to meet their commitments by 2025. Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia account for nearly 90% of the Bay’s pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency is discussing a new era of pollution reduction.

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Virginia awarded $116 million in its agricultural cost-sharing program earlier this year, with $81 million of that going to farmers in the Bay watershed.

Matt Kowalski, a Virginia watershed restoration scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said that the distribution was “historic,” but said that the cost-sharing program needs to increase every year because it has not been fully funded until now.

“We will still need contributions from the feds,” Kowalski said during a press conference Wednesday that also discussed the possibility of funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and the 2023 Farm Bill.

The Virginia Mercury is part of the States Newsroom, a group of news organizations supported by grants and donor partnerships as a 501c(3) nonprofit. The Virginia Mercury maintains its independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong with questions: [email protected] Follow the Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.


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