$300,000 grant to benefit Upper Middle River landowners in Augusta County

The Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation District signed a three-year grant agreement with Valley Conservation Council to aid in the implementation of conservation practices, particularly livestock stream exclusion fencing, in the Upper Middle River watershed.

augusta-county2editsThis grant is made possible with non-profit funding from the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network, a consortium of private grantmakers. This opportunity will focus on the impaired stream segments of Edison Creek, Bell Creek, and Moffett Creek. These subwatersheds of Middle River encompass a major portion of the agricultural land area in Augusta County and are predominantly operated by tenant farmers. The cattlemen renting these lands typically have a verbal contract with the landowner for a short term lease which makes it difficult for landowners and renters to justify making long-term investments in the land due to uncertainties associated with short-term contracts.

Short term leases present a significant challenge not only when it comes to implementing conservation practices but also in making general land improvements. This grant will complement traditional state and federal conservation programs by providing the flexibility to offer increased technical assistance, alternative water systems, in addition to the opportunity to offer educational field days and workshops that meet the special needs of non-operator (absentee) farm landowners and renters.

Workshops will emphasize the importance of long-term land lease agreements as well as farmland transition from one generation to the next. One grant objective is to recruit two farmers to experiment with alternative water systems such as a pasture pump or ram pump. The grant will also support the development of a water monitoring alert system that will notify a renter in the event of low drinking water levels in livestock drinking systems, especially in the event of power outages.

Meeting the special needs of non-operator farmland owners and renters will increase conservation practice applications and achieve greater water quality benefits for the Middle River, which is currently on Virginia’s impaired streams list.

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