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New cost-share program stands to help farmers, waterways

virginia-blue-oversizeVirginia farmers are pleased with Gov. Bob McDonnell’s announcement of a new initiative to help them implement conservation practices.

“Virginia farmers have been voluntarily using best management practices to protect water quality for years, but most of the practices are costly. Getting funding for these practices has long been a priority issue for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation,” said Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations.

With nearly 150,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group.

The new Virginia Enhanced Conservation Initiative, managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, will boost existing state agricultural cost-sharing programs that provide farmers with financial and technical assistance to implement practices such as rotational grazing and stream exclusion for livestock.

“Virginia farmers now have a new avenue to increase profitability and conservation on their lands,” McDonnell said. “By focusing on the practice of streamside livestock exclusion, we are helping producers protect their financial interest and do their part to protect Virginia’s precious waters.”

Under the initiative, farmers can be reimbursed for as much as 100 percent of the cost of installing systems that manage grazing and keep livestock out of waterways. Reimbursement for stream exclusion systems previously has been capped at 75 percent under the state’s cost-share program.

“This is definitely a positive step,” Stoneman said. “The more help farmers can get, the more likely they are to adopt practices that will improve water quality and their farming operations all at the same time.”

Approximately $3 million will be available under the VECI. To apply, farmers must have an approved 2013 Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program application on file.

Since 1984, DCR has partnered with Virginia’s soil and water conservation districts to administer the agricultural cost-share program.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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