Agriculture covers the largest land area of any industry in Virginia. Not surprisingly, it is also the largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution reaching local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. Even though many well-operated farms employ sound conservation practices that protect water quality, many more farmers would like to put these practices in place but need technical and financial support.
That's where Virginia's Agricultural Cost-Share Program comes into play. Since 1985, this program has helped thousands of farmers implement conservation practices that prevent pollution from reaching waterways. These “best management practices” or BMPs include fencing livestock out of streams, planting buffers of trees and native plants along waterways, nutrient management plans that ensure farmers use the right amount of fertilizer, and many other practices essential to protecting our streams and the Bay. The program also provides technical support to help farmers properly install these projects in the best locations. When working with farmers, CBF field staff often recommend this program as a source of assistance.
Investments in these practices lead to cleaner water, create jobs, and help the local economy. A network of small businesses—from contractors to lumber yards to tree nurseries—benefit when a farmer installs a one of these projects. Nutrient management plans allow farmers to maximize yield so they save on fertilizer costs while maintaining production. Studies have shown that implementing farm conservation practices at levels necessary to restore the Chesapeake Bay would create nearly 12,000 jobs and that every $1.00 invested in Bay restoration will generate $4.00.
But more support is needed to make sure all farmers can participate, ensure Virginia does not fall behind on water quality. and realize the economic benefits of restored waterways. It is essential that state legislators and the governor invest $62 million in Virginia's Agricultural Cost-Share Program this year. This would be in line with levels provided in the past, but an increase from last year's level.