Partnership initiative offers funding, resources for Shenandoah Valley dairy producers
Clean water may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think dairy production, but many Shenandoah Valley farmers are proving that a little planning can go a long way towards minimizing environmental impacts of concentrated animal operations.
Dairy producers in Augusta and Rockingham counties can now get those same benefits by implementing comprehensive nutrient management plans on their operations with a little help from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Sustainable Chesapeake.
NRCS is making $455,902 in funding available to help improve Chesapeake Bay water quality through increased adoption of practices like waste storage facilities, heavy-use area protection and nutrient management.
Sustainable Chesapeake engaged multiple partners to develop this 2017 Regional Conservation Partnership Program project specifically for dairy operations in Maryland and Virginia. The non-profit organization received direct input from the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech and soil and water conservation districts and has built a strong support network for farmers interested in taking that next step.
“You can’t check precision nutrient management by going out to the field,” says Sustainable Chesapeake Executive Director Kristen Hughes Evans. “We rely on records. The Shenandoah Valley Soil & Water Conservation District really stepped up to the plate to hire a CNMP writer who can work with the Harrisonburg staff to help local producers implement whole-farm plans.”
NRCS has invested more than $195,000 over the past three years to help Virginia farmers safely capture and use manure while reducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from farm fields into surface and groundwater. Along the way, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has provided leadership and direction as well as critical state cost share funds.
“This project is a great example of what we can accomplish when partners collaborate with NRCS to fill critical technical assistance gaps that impact our ability to get conservation on the ground,” said NRCS State Conservationist Dr. Edwin Martinez Martinez. “Consultants are that bridge between NRCS and the farmer to determine which operators are a good fit for the practice and help them implement their conservation plans.”
Producers who receive services from the Harrisonburg and Verona USDA Service Centers may be eligible to participate in this project. Interested individuals should call or visit their local office to confirm eligibility and complete an application by July 2, to be considered for Fiscal Year 2021 funding.