Each year, Virginia farmers implement practices on their farms that help protect the environment and the Chesapeake Bay. Those practices are not cheap, and farmers often rely on state or federal cost-share programs to help pay for the measures. Virginia Farm Bureau Federation leaders will again urge state legislators to adequately fund the state’s Agriculture Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program to help farmers with those expenses.
Farm Bureau is asking members of the Virginia General Assembly for $61.79 million to fund ag BMPs in order for farmers to meet Virginia’s Watershed Implementation Plan goals by 2017.
“We also want them to provide additional funding to alleviate the additional $68 million backlog of requests from farmers for stream exclusion conservation practices,” said Martha Moore, VFBF vice president of governmental relations. “Many of our farmers have made a commitment to install stream exclusion fencing on their farms, but they need some certainty that cost-share money is going to be available.”
The state’s largest farmers’ advocacy group also is asking the General Assembly to provide $15.52 million to fund operational support and technical assistance for soil and water conservation districts so they can administer the Ag BMP Cost-Share Program. The districts also assist farmers in developing resource management plans and track voluntary conservation practices to help document water quality improvements.
Virginia farmers have been using voluntary, incentive-based conservation practices for years. However, without the Ag BMP Cost-Share Program, it may not be economically feasible for farmers to implement many of these practices, Moore said.
“As a result of the implementation of these practices, water quality improvements have been recognized and achieved,” she said. “This program can help Virginia meet its water quality commitments without burdening farmers with mandates or regulatory permits.”
Funding for the Ag BMP Cost-Share Program and soil and water conservation districts are issues Farm Bureau has deemed critical for 2016. Farm Bureau leaders will meet with their legislators prior to and during the General Assembly to emphasize the importance of that funding. They also have made a plea to Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his administration.