Virginia’s farmers have a vested interest in being good stewards of the land and water. And they want to partner with the commonwealth to meet its water quality goals.
Agricultural best management practices are a means to that end, but they’re not inexpensive.
That’s why Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest agricultural organization, is asking that full funding for Virginia’s agricultural BMP cost-share program be included in the governor’s proposed biennial budget.
BMPs include a variety of farm installations and farming techniques that are proven to protect water quality. Farm Bureau is urging lawmakers to include funding for the cost-share program administered by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and distributed through local soil and water conservation districts. The organization also wants to ensure that full funding is provided for technical assistance to local soil and water conservation districts to help farmers meet specifications for conservation practices.
Full funding in 2021 would include more than $85 million in cost-share funds and $11 million for technical assistance, Farm Bureau has asserted.
Gary Cross, who raises peanuts and cotton in Southampton County, has participated in the BMP cost-share program and has served on the board of his soil and water conservation district board for 25 years.
“We’re tasked as farmers to keep the environment clean,” he said. “And we want to do that––it’s how we make our living.”
Cross, who is president of Southampton County Farm Bureau, said access to cost-share funds has helped him maintain his cover crop program and nutrient management practices. Cover crops are planted to manage erosion and soil quality. Professionally prepared nutrient management plans supply cropland with needed nutrients while minimizing runoff and maintaining or improving soil conditions.
If full funding is approved, Farm Bureau leaders said, soil and water conservation district offices could retain a base number of personnel and technical assistants without risking job insecurity in case of a budgetary imbalance.