(RICHMOND, VA)—Over the weekend Virginia's legislators approved a budget that includes an investment of about $17 million in fiscal year 2018 in Virginia's agricultural cost-share program. That is a significant decrease from the fiscal year 2017 level of $61.7 million. This program helps Virginia farmers put practices in place that restore local waterways.
The budget also directs the formation of a stakeholder group to recommend methods to stabilize investment in farm conservation practices. A separate group will look into what is needed for continued progress with Resource Management Plans, which help farmers best take advantage of practices that improve both farming operations and water quality.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Rebecca LePrell issued the following statement.
"We thank Virginia's legislators for continuing to support Virginia's agricultural cost-share program. Sustained, consistent investment in farm conservation practices is necessary to keep Virginia on track to restore its rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. For farmers, it is important to know what level of state support to expect when making plans. Stability is also crucial for the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts that help implement the practices.
"Now is the right time for the new stakeholder group tasked with finding solutions to the fluctuations in support for the agricultural cost-share program, as well as the separate group taking a closer look at resource management plans. We are very pleased to be named as part of both groups.
"However, we're disappointed that the budget does not invest in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which provides grants to cities and counties across Virginia to reduce polluted runoff entering local waterways. Addressing polluted runoff from urban and suburban areas is among the biggest challenges moving forward for Virginia to meet its clean water goals. We will continue to work with localities to address this issue."
The stakeholder group on stabilizing the cost-share program includes the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Virginia Farm Bureau Foundation, the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Virginia Agribusiness Council, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Secretary of Natural Resources, and staff from House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees. The Resource Management Plan group includes the same stakeholders, as well as the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.