You don't have to live in rural America to be impacted by agriculture. If you eat, agriculture has an impact on your life every day. As we celebrate National Agriculture Day this week, it is important to remember the tremendous contributions our nation's agriculture industry has made to our economy, communities, and American way of life. By talking directly with farmers in the Sixth District, I have come to understand the significant challenges of farming in today's environment, including federal rules and regulations that seem to govern nearly every aspect of the industry. Too often we have seen proposals from a variety of federal agencies that would adversely affect rural communities by increasing costs and making it harder for agricultural producers to make a living.
Farmers who live in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed know firsthand the impact of tightening regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency's Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which sets the limit on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment discharged into the Chesapeake Bay and each of its tributaries by different types of sources, and the President's Executive Order 13508 (Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration) force more costly mandates and overzealous regulations on all of those who live, work, and farm in the Watershed. We must restore and protect the Bay; however, the EPA's strategy will limit economic growth and unfairly over-regulate local agricultural producers and economies. For example, implementation would cost the state of Virginia roughly $16 billion and the City of Lynchburg estimates that the cost to meet the new EPA stormwater requirements will initially be $120 - $140 million.
To counteract these burdensome regulations, this week I introduced the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act along with Congressman Tim Holden (D-PA). This bipartisan legislation would allow states and communities more flexibility and set up programs to give farmers, homebuilders, and localities new ways to meet their water quality goals. Additionally, this bill will create a voluntary assurance program for farmers. The program will deem farmers to be fully in compliance with their water quality requirements as long as they have undertaken appropriate conservation activities to comply with state and federal water quality goals.
We must ensure that American agriculture can continue to meet the needs of our nation and prevent government overreach that would make it impossible for farmers to continue producing abundant and affordable food and fiber products. Farming has never been an easy way of life, but it is essential to our economy, our national security, our health, and our prosperity. The hard work and dedication of America's agriculture industry is something to be celebrated every day. As you sit down to dinner tonight, remember the men and women who worked to bring that food to your table. They are keeping America farming.