The latest political counter-blow in the long-standing battle to clean up the Chesapeake Bay came in March when Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte introduced H.R. 4153, the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act.

The bill is aimed at continuing the Bay cleanup effort, but safeguarding farmers and home builders from stringent requirements set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the ongoing cleanup effort.

Goodlatte’s bill is co-sponsored by Pennsylvania Congressmen Tim Holden and Glenn Thompson and Ohio Congressman Bob Gibbs. 

It had already drawn negative response from Bay Restoration leaders, but when Goodlatte proclaimed its merits as guest-host of the Ag Minute on March 20, energy was ramped up on both sides of the debate.

The Ag Minute is produced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and is widely followed in political circles by leaders of both sides of the Chesapeake Bay restoration issue.

Goodlatte says his bill, which was referred to the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy on March 9, will protect the Bay’s health while reigning in the power of the Federal Government via the EPA.

Protecting the states agriculture economy takes on even more importance to the economic well-being of Virginia, based on comments by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell at the recent Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade in Richmond.

Governor Bob McDonnell has announced that agricultural exports from Virginia reached an all-time high level in 2011, surpassing the previous record set in 2009. The Governor made the announcement during his keynote remarks at the Governor's Conference on Agricultural Trade in Richmond.

The Commonwealth exported a record $2.35 billion in agricultural products in 2011, a more than six percent increase from 2010.

The new record also is a more than two percent increase above the 2009 level when Virginia reached its previous record high for agricultural exports. The growth in agricultural exports comes despite a continued slow economic recovery worldwide.

Goodlatte says, “The Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act allows states in the Bay Watershed more flexibility in meeting water quality goals so that we can help restore and protect our natural resources.”

He also cites the value of Virginia agriculture to the economic well-being of the region.

Farmers in the seven-state Bay Estuary have not been pleased with the heavy-handed actions of the EPA and via legal action by Farm Bureaus in each state have exposed a number of unfair practices carried out as part of the Bay cleanup.