Governor Bob McDonnell today announced a new initiative to help farmers implement high-priority conservation practices and improve water quality statewide.
The new Virginia Enhanced Conservation Initiative (VECI), managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), will boost existing state agricultural cost-sharing programs that provide farmers financial and technical assistance to implement stream exclusion and pastureland conservation practices.
“Virginia farmers now have a new avenue to increase profitability and conservation on their lands,” McDonnell said. “By focusing on the practice of streamside livestock exclusion, we are helping producers protect their financial interest and do their part to protect Virginia’s precious waters.”
“Under the initiative, farmers can be reimbursed up to 100 percent of the cost to install systems that manage grazing and keep livestock out of nearby waterways,” said Doug Domenech, Secretary of Natural Resources. Reimbursement for installing identified “stream-exclusion” systems previously has been capped at 75 percent under the state’s cost-share program.
“Keeping livestock out of rivers and streams is critical to reducing water contamination and pollution, and to improving water quality throughout the state,” said McDonnell. “Studies have also shown that keeping livestock out of streams leads to healthier herds and fewer veterinary bills.”
“Farmers are long-standing stewards of their lands and the natural resources of the Commonwealth,” said Todd Haymore, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “Oftentimes, cost is the greatest impediment to farmers adopting additional best management practices. In appreciate the partnership we have with Secretary Domenech and our natural resources agencies and programs such as VECI which are instrumental in providing farmers the resources they need to continue to keep agriculture as Virginia’s largest industry while also responsibly caring for its environment.”
Approximately $3 million will be available for the enhanced reimbursement under VECI. To apply, farmers must first have an approved program year 2013 contract under the DCR Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program (VACS).
“We realize that cost can be a barrier to the implementation of this practice across the state,” said DCR Director David A. Johnson. “The Virginia Enhanced Conservation Initiative will encourage more farmers to install these systems and reap the benefits of healthier herds and better pasture management.”
Stream-exclusion systems include features that prevent livestock from entering nearby waterways. Components include fences, watering troughs, vegetative buffers, wells and pumps.
Since 1984, DCR has partnered with Virginia’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts to run the agricultural cost-share program. Funded by the state and delivered locally by districts, the program helps farmers implement dozens of best practices, such as erosion-control systems, cover crops, animal-waste facilities and more.
“The agriculture community has been a strong partner in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay and southern rivers,” said Domenech. “We are pleased to work with our agricultural stakeholders in this effort.”
Interested individuals should contact their local district office for more information about VECI, as well as other incentive programs. To locate the nearest district office, visit www.vaswcd.org.