Resource Management Plans will help document on-farm conservation efforts and compliance

virginia-blue-oversizeThe Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation is introducing a new program this summer to help all Virginia farmers implement conservation plans, and to keep better track of conservation practices in use on farms.

For decades farmers have used conservation practices like buffer strips, no-till planting and carefully monitored applications of fertilizers and crop protectants. Those are all tools to decrease soil erosion and limit nutrient use to only what is needed for a good crop. But unless the practices were paid for with cost-share funds, farmers and regulators have had no consistent method of accounting for voluntary best management practices.

After two years in development, a Resource Management Plan program took effect July 1 to address that issue. The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and other agricultural groups were instrumental in supporting the program as a good way to improve water quality and document what farmers are doing to protect the environment. DCR will be introducing the program to farmers at events across the state this summer.

“The main goal is to get farmers to use a high level of conservation practices or best management practices, and what this plan does is gives them a new incentive,” said Gary Waugh, DCR public relations manager. “It would basically give them a certainty that during the life of their plan, … they would be assured that they are complying with water quality standards associated with chesapeake bay and other local clean-up plans.”

Certified nutrient management and certified resource management plan developers are available to help farmers interested in the program, Waugh said. It’s the first of its kind for any state in the chesapeake bay watershed, and supporters hope the program will make a significant difference for Virginia’s farmers and the future of the state’s waterways.

“We’ve got farmers who have put literally thousands of best management practices on the grounds, we’ve got farmers doing nutrient management plans now, doing soil and erosion plans now,” said Del. Ed Scott, R-Culpeper, who sponsored legislation that authorized the new program. “What we’re simply trying to do is kind of bring it all under one umbrella.” In a decade there will be a database showing the use of best management practices by farmers to protect water quality.

Virginia Resource Management Plans will be effective for nine years and undergo compliance inspections every three years. Farmers will enter into a plan agreement on their own; no law will force them to sign up, Waugh said.

Details about the program are available online at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/soil_and_water/rmp.shtml.



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