Farmers optimistic about conservation funding proposal

virginia mapEnvironmentalists and farmers are greeting a proposal to expand state funding for water quality improvements with open arms.

As part of his legislative priorities package for the 2019 General Assembly, Gov. Ralph Northam proposed up to $90 million a year by fiscal year 2020 in cost-share money to help fund Virginia’s agricultural best management practices.

Best management practices include a wide range of farming activities that are proven to improve water quality or better protect the environment. Many of them are expensive to implement, so the cost-share program makes them more affordable.

“We’re pretty excited about BMPs; they have been a good opportunity for us,” noted Jacob Gilley, an Orange County beef cattle producer. “The funding not only helps with improving the environment but also improving animal welfare.”

Gilley recently installed cattle watering stations, which are needed when animals are fenced out of streams. That’s just one of several BMP improvements he and his family have implemented recently with the help of federal and state cost-share dollars.

“At our farm, we’ve implemented stream exclusions and hardened cattle crossings” to reduce mud and erosion, he said. As part of their approved nutrient management plan, the family also built a feeding barn, which is a covered area that reduces muddy feeding conditions and collects manure which will be spread on farm fields in the spring.

“There’s always a scarcity” of cost-share funding for conservation improvements, commented Glenn Dye, a Stafford County row crop producer who also maintains a small cow-calf operation. “People apply for cost-share [funding], and they don’t get funded for years and that discourages them,” he explained.

“I was reading an article this morning on the quality of the Chesapeake Bay,” he said. “Anytime we can help clean up the environment, I’m all for it. Especially since these programs are voluntary. The cost-share funds are a great incentive for producers.”

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