On July 11, Environmental Policy Initiative attorney and watershed policy fellow Jamie Konopacky traveled to Washington, DC to host briefings on and off Capitol Hill for Congressional staff and environmental and policy groups. 25 key agriculture staff from Democratic and Republic offices and several groups attended the events. Briefing participants were introduced to the new Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) recently developed by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and learned about on-the-ground experiences in small-scale watershed planning from state and federal agency and trade group experts.
Current state and federal programs, focused primarily on a voluntary producer-by-producer, farm-by-farm approach to implementing conservation practices, have not been successful in stemming agricultural runoff into waterways. In fact, scientists expect that the “dead zones” and algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay will reach record size this summer.
Briefing participants were interested in how federal conservation programs could potentially be revamped in the 2018 Farm Bill to encourage use of the new ACPF technology and scale up voluntary small-scale watershed planning and implementation throughout the U.S. Konopacky anticipates a series of conversations with interested policy makers and stakeholders about how we can use policy to deliver a voluntary small-scale watershed planning and implementation approach that improves farm productivity and enhances water quality. See her new article, “Battling the (Algae) Bloom: Watershed Policies and Plans in Wisconsin,” in the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, for an in-depth discussion of this approach.