VFBF News Leads: State begins tracking owner-financed farm conservation practices

*News Leads are the weekly top agriculture stories written by Farm Bureau’s Communications Department and sent to local newspapers and TV stations around the state as a news release. This story was released on Oct. 13. 

Virginia farmers in six soil and water conservation districts are being urged to participate in a pilot program to collect information about conservation practices they’ve implemented.

“Farmers need to know what’s going on, and they should participate,” said Wilmer Stoneman, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation associate director of governmental relations. “This is a program that is valuable to them. It’s a direct response to Farm Bureau’s complaints that incomplete data is being used by the Environmental Protection Agency to draw up mandatory conservation programs to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”

Best management practices are changes farmers and other landowners make to their property to reduce or eliminate soil erosion or contamination of water. They include switching to no-till planting methods, fencing livestock out of waterways, using nutrient-management planning for crop production, and covering manure storage facilities.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has records only of practices installed using cost-share funds from federal and state conservation programs. Those were the records the EPA used for its Chesapeake Bay computer model in recent years.

“We know that a lot more conservation practices have been installed or are in use on Virginia farms than are on record,” Stoneman said. “They have to be, since there has never been enough cost-share funding to meet the demand for financial assistance. So many farmers paid for these practices out of their own pockets, but they are not being credited in the EPA model.”

In response to that complaint, the 2010 Virginia General Assembly passed a bill requiring the secretary of natural resources to establish a data collection program for voluntarily implemented agriculture and forestry BMPs. Virginia’s 47 soil and water conservation districts are the primary collection agents, and six pilot districts started that work this summer.

The pilot districts are located in and around Bristol, Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, the Northern Neck, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. For more information, visit vaswcd.org.

Welcome to Plows and Politics

Hello and welcome to Plows and Politics, the official blog of the Virginia Farm Bureau Governmental Relations Department. We will be posting updates and articles relating to Farm Bureau’s state and federal critical issues, regulatory actions, announcements of public meetings, and the legislative activities of county Farm Bureaus.

Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization–What does that mean? That means you, our Farm Bureau members, tell us what to fight for in the General Assembly. But we can’t do it alone. Throughout the years, we’ve counted on your voice to help us educate our state and national legislators on issues that greatly affect the agricultural community.

Thanks to your letters, phone calls and visits, we’ve greatly influenced the way our legislators view agriculture. In 2010, Farm Bureau members responded to Action Alerts regarding federal legislation that would unfairly blame farmers and overestimate their impact on the Chesapeake Bay. Your efforts resulted in 28,000 contacts made to U.S. Sens. Warner and Webb and Virginia delegation in the House of Representatives, including personal visits, emails, phone calls and more than 18,000 letters. These contacts played a huge role in the defeat of the legislation.

If you’re interested in receiving our Action Alerts, please e-mail Kelly.Pruitt@vafb.com with your name, county, membership number and contact information. If you are a producer member, she will add you to our Action Alert system.

We hope you enjoy the blog! We will be posting information at least twice a week.

Thanks for reading,

Martha Moore
Vice President, VFBF Governmental Relations