Edited by Chris Graham
The Verona-based Shenandoah Resource Conservation and Development Council has received a three-year partnership agreement worth $720,000 annually to help farmers with conservation practices.
The funds were provided through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative.
Shenandoah RC&D Chairman John Eckman said funds “present a real opportunity for landowners in the Valley to get more conservation practices on the ground.”
“This boost should help kick start the showcase watershed project for Smith Creek in Rockingham and Shenandoah Counties, as well as serve other counties in the Valley,” Eckman said.
An additional $142,000 in CCPI funds were also made available to Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Trout Unlimited for practices related to excluding livestock from streams, improving trout habitat and planting and maintaining trees and other vegetation along creeks.
“This is a special project,” says Eckman. “We hope landowners will make good use of these funds to improve water quality and farm profitability right here in the Valley.” The funds will go directly to farmers to install practices such as cover crops, nutrient management, rotation to perennials, prescribed grazing and associated watering systems. Special emphasis will be given to beginning farmers, limited resource farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers.
Farmers must sign up by Aug. 15 in their local NRCS offices in Harrisonburg, Verona, Strasburg or Lexington. The NRCS district conservationists will help them fill out the application for this year’s funding. The RC&D CCPI funding is available in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Page, Warren, Clarke and Frederick counties.
Improving pasture management is as critical in the showcase Smith Creek watershed as anywhere in the Shenandoah Valley, a major area for beef production. The project will include holding two workshops per year related to economic return and ecological
improvements in grazing systems. These events will lay the groundwork for farmer-to-farmer mentoring programs. The Shenandoah Valley Beef Cooperative, NRCS, and Virginia Cooperative Extension are partners in the project, providing hands on demonstrations and expertise.