Study: Farm Clean Water Practices Create Jobs, Boost Economy

Press Release
March 17, 2010

Study: Farm Clean Water Practices Create Jobs, Boost Economy

Thousands of jobs, millions in new business, plus clean water

Investment in farm "best management practices," such as the streamside buffer and livestock fencing shown below, will generate new, increased economic activity and employment, according to a new economic study by the University of Virginia.

Stream with newly planted buffer and fenced pasturePhoto by Dave Wise/CBF Staff


Every public dollar spent on implementing BMPs will produce $1.56 in new economic activity���nearly a billion dollars.

Public investment in farm clean water practices would generate 11,751 new jobs.

Business sectors benefiting the most include:

  • waste management and landscaping services
  • construction
  • agriculture
  • forestry
  • fishing
  • hunting
  • professional, scientific, and technical services industries

What are "best management practices?"

Best management practices (BMPs) prevent nutrients from washing into farm streams.

Examples include:

  • planting streamside buffers of grasses, shrubs, or trees
  • fencing off livestock from creeks
  • installing animal waste containers

(RICHMOND, VA)���A new economic study of the farm conservation practices considered critical for cleaning up Virginia rivers and restoring the Chesapeake Bay found that every public dollar spent on implementing the practices will produce $1.56 in new economic activity. Further, the practices would generate 11,751 new jobs of approximately one year duration for Virginians in the Chesapeake Bay watershed over the course of the cleanup effort.

"The study confirms the significant benefit to Virginians in the Bay watershed of investing in farm clean water practices," said Ann F. Jennings, Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Virginia Executive Director. "Not only will we clean up streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay, but we will generate new, increased economic activity and new employment for Virginians in the region."

The study, conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, looked at the cost of the farm "best management practices" (BMPs) called for in Virginia's 2005 Tributary Strategies, the state plan for restoring water quality in rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. The practices, such as planting streamside buffers of grasses and shrubs, fencing livestock from creeks, and installing animal waste containers, are often paid for through programs where government and farmers share the cost of implementation. Typically, the government funds 75 percent and farmers 25 percent. Of the public cost-share funds, the majority of the federal contribution represents a significant additional flow of economic value into the state's economy.

Government's share of the cost to implement the necessary clean water practices to restore the Bay is estimated at $603 million in 2010 dollars. That public investment would generate nearly a billion dollars���$940 million���in economic activity rippling through the Virginia portion of the Bay watershed, including more than $431 million in the Potomac-Shenandoah river basin, $335 million in the James River basin, and $74 million in the Rappahannock River basin, according to the study. Business sectors benefiting the most include waste management and landscaping services, construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, as well the professional, scientific, and technical service industry.

Moreover, the study found that the public investment in farm clean water practices would generate 11,751 jobs of at least one year's duration in communities across Virginia's part of the Bay watershed.

"Overall the results suggest that significant economic impacts may be realized," the study concludes, noting the positive impacts do not include new revenues farmers may realize from pollution trading programs or the additional economic benefits accruing to commercial fishing, recreation, and other activities dependent upon a cleaner, healthier Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Clean Water Act, now in Congress and which will compel the Bay states to put in place policies and programs sufficient to restore the Chesapeake by 2025, authorizes at least $96 million for technical assistance for farmers to install clean water practices. Moreover, the federal Farm Bill includes $440 million in conservation funding for Bay region farmers. Together with Virginia cost-share funding, these dollars will produce economic gains across the Chesapeake watershed.

"This analysis confirms what CBF has been saying for some time: conservation is good for the environment and the economy," Jennings said. "We can have a healthy Bay, healthy farms, and a healthy economy."

A copy of the study, "Economic Impacts of Implementing Agricultural Best Management Practices to Achieve Goals Outlined in Virginia's Tributary Strategy," can be downloaded at

Find out what dairy farmer Gerald Garber and Sen. Emmett Hanger have to say about farm conservation practices in this article from The News Virginian.

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