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Best management practices to protect Chesapeake Bay fully funded in state budget

Chesapeake Bay
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Lawmakers in the General Assembly have heard the unified voice of Virginia farmers and conservationists who have long advocated for full funding to implement agricultural best management practices that protect natural resources.

The outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced that his two-year budget proposal will provide historic funding for the Chesapeake Bay and clean water infrastructure. The proposed budget will provide nearly $286 million to fully fund the Virginia Natural Resources Commitment Fund, which helps farmers and landowners implement clean water and conservation practices, like stream fencing and cover crops.

Agriculture and conservation communities have called for full funding of Virginia’s agricultural BMP cost-share “needs assessment”—a data-driven funding calculation. The cost-share program supports various practices in conservation planning on cropland, pastureland, hay land and forestland. Additionally, funding will provide technical assistance for farmers and landowners to implement conservation practices.

“For almost 12 years, we have been asking for the ‘needs assessment’ for agricultural best management practices be fully funded,” said Martha Moore, vice president of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

As Virginia’s agriculture and conservation communities celebrate this announcement, this is not the end of the road.

“While this will be included in Gov. Northam’s outgoing budget, now we have to work on keeping it in the budget,” Moore said.

The inclusion of full funding for BMPs in the proposed state budget is the result of intensive grassroots efforts, she added, thanking Farm Bureau leaders who attended regional legislative briefing meetings and met with lawmakers. Farmers will have another chance to emphasize the need for those funds as they get face time with lawmakers at VFBF’s Legislative Day at the Capitol on Jan. 24.

“This day would be a great opportunity to continue to advocate for keeping these monies in the budget,” Moore said.

Virginia farmers are key partners in the efforts to restore the quality and bounty of the Chesapeake Bay, said Del. David Bulova, D-Fairfax, chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. “By fully funding agricultural conservation practices and technical support, these investments ensure farmers have what they need to participate in Virginia’s clean-up plan for the bay.”

Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring said collaboration between the General Assembly, farmers and conservationists is key to ensuring the protection of important watersheds and lands.

“These bold investments in our farmland and forests in rural and urban areas further demonstrate the critical role they play in protecting our environment, building healthier communities and growing our economy,” she said.

augusta free press
augusta free press