Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Can Farmers Save the Chesapeake Bay?

When I read the title of the advertisement for this in the Chesapeake Bay news feed, I was moderately hopeful.  A billion dollars to help solve the problem of farm nutrients getting into the Bay?  Even allowing for the usual trickle down through a sponge BS, that's a lot of money and might make a difference.  Now that I read the article, I'm not all that impressed.

New federal farm program will help fight Chesapeake Bay pollution
Federal officials launched a new program Tuesday that enlists nonprofit groups and others in efforts to clean troubled natural wonders like the Chesapeake Bay.

Called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the initiative will provide $1.2 billion in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding for conservation grants over the next five years.

Nonprofit groups, local governments, private companies and others will propose conservation projects – say, efforts to prevent manure from running off farmland, or to protect wetlands. They will apply for the federal money and put up matching amounts, creating $2.4 billion for improvements.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the program a “new approach to conservation.”

“By establishing new public-private partnerships, we can have an impact that’s well beyond what the federal government could accomplish on its own,” Vilsack said in a statement.

The program features three money pools. Thirty-five percent will go to eight “critical conservation areas” such as the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and prairie grasslands.

In addition, 40 percent of the money will go to regional or multi-state projects, and 25 percent will go to state-level projects. . .
So in fact, Chesapeake Bay is just one of the regions, so divide that $1.2 billion (with a "b") by eight or so to find how much will be targeted at the Bay.   We're already down to something like $150 million (with an "m".)

Forget about the "matching funds."  Speaking as an old hand at the soft money game, "matching funds" is usually accounting bullshit, covering things that the grantee is paying for anyway, but it sure is nice to get credit for it.

So of the $150 million or so, 40% will be designated for "regional" projects and 25% to state projects. I frankly don't see regional or state level projects doing any more than supporting some of the current environmental bureaucracies, with the net result of lots of serious sounding white papers that farmers won't read, and very little nutrient reduction.

So we're down to something like $50 million being dumped on the NGOS to tell the farmers to be nicer, a few consulting companies (I could name if I had to) doing some computer modeling and possibly a pittance or two going to some farmers who agree to participate in some trials.
The new program combines four previous conservation programs, including one that provided funding specifically for Chesapeake Bay projects.

Under that previous program, the bay region got about $188 million over five years to fight pollution, officials said. Under the new system, conservation groups and others will bid for money competitively.

Asked if the bay region could end up with less money this time around, about the same, or more, the USDA’s Robert Bonnie did not answer directly. But he said the bay region has a long history of groups and agencies working together.

“The Chesapeake Bay is going to do very well under this program,” said Bonnie, the under secretary for natural resources and environment.
So it's not really new money; it's old money under a new name. And we know that the Chesapeake Bay is not showing much signs of progress.

No comments:

Post a Comment