Virginia to benefit from new federal Chesapeake Bay funding allocation
A $22.5 million investment in conservation assistance will soon help USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service better respond to the high demand for services from Chesapeake Bay area farmers and offer new and targeted program signups to get more water quality practices on the ground.
Offered through the new Chesapeake Bay States’ Partnerships Initiative, the funding will help take voluntary, locally led conservation to the next level through an innovative framework that leverages USDA assistance with partner resources to accelerate stewardship activities in this critical watershed. NRCS will increase allocations for three core programs beyond what has already been provided for Fiscal Year 2022 and work with USDA’s Farm Service Agency to identify needs and opportunities for buffer management on acres that may be coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
More than 155,000 acres are currently enrolled in buffer, grass and tree practices designed to improve water quality and wildlife habitat throughout the watershed. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and Conservation Stewardship Program will be used to fund practices like riparian buffers, cover crops, waste storage facilities and prescribed grazing, which reduce nitrogen and sediment runoff, improve nutrient management for livestock operations and conserve wetlands.
NRCS will use a targeting process developed by its State Technical Committee to ensure that funds are awarded to priority watersheds in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania. The partnership effort also includes a collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency to better quantify impacts of Bay conservation activities. The Task Force on Crediting Chesapeake Bay Conservation Investments will develop an action plan that is responsive to the needs of the Bay states and the agricultural community, which farms nearly 30 percent of the watershed.
“While the health of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, has improved, excess nutrients and sediment continue to adversely affect water quality,” said Dr. Edwin Martinez Martinez, Virginia’s state conservationist. “This funding will build on a $1.1 billion investment over the past decade as we continue to work with producers and partners to implement climate-smart practices to help meet or exceed goals for cleaner water and a healthier ecosystem.”
Virginia NRCS will be a key player in this effort with 23 of 41 service centers and more than 100 dedicated staff, partners and contractors providing services to landowners in the watershed. Between fiscal years 2018 and 2021, the agency invested $60.1 million in Farm Bill program funding to accelerate voluntary, on-farm conservation on 273,306 enrolled acres in the commonwealth.
To learn more, visit the Virginia NRCS website to download state EQIP, ACEP and CSP fact sheets.