Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia Farmers to Benefit from Nearly $1 Million in Conservation Grants

(ARLINGTON, VA.)—Farmers in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia will get new support for conservation practices through two grants awarded to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) as part of a historic investment in Bay restoration and community engagement EPA announced today. Information CBF gathers through these grants will also help inform future work on policy improvements to agricultural conservation programs.    

CBF’s projects are among 82 new Bay conservation grants worth $35 million awarded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), a nonprofit that administers several Chesapeake Bay grant programs. The 82 grants will leverage $32 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $67 million, according to a NFWF release.

Maryland and West Virginia farmers to get help with high-priority conservation projects

A grant to CBF of $476,000, which CBF must raise $259,000 to match, will help Maryland and West Virginia farms in the Upper Potomac River watershed implement conservation practices with the greatest potential to improve water quality and sequester carbon.

Practices will include restoring forested streamside buffers and wetlands, converting cropland to rotationally grazed pasture, and fencing livestock out of streams. The grant will also cover educating other farmers and the larger community about regenerative agriculture practices.

The Upper Potomac watershed is an agricultural area of strategic importance to reducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the Bay and its second-largest tributary, the Potomac River. It also accounts for two-thirds of the 1,600 acres of streamside forested buffers Maryland is trying to plant by 2025 and is prime habitat for native brook trout.  

“This grant will allow CBF and our partners to accelerate progress we are already making through extensive investments, including from NFWF, to work directly with farmers and other landowners in the region to improve water quality,” said CBF Maryland Restoration Specialist Rob Schnabel.

“CBF will work with farmers to understand their conservation priorities, including where state and federal cost-share programs can add value and where program deficiencies deter landowners from seeking support,” Schnabel said.  

“By providing tailored assistance to interested landowners, our goal is to help them overcome these obstacles. The grant will also allow us to provide farm tours to educate farmers and decision-makers about the benefits of regenerative agriculture, enabling positive long-term change in the region,” he said.

Streamlining installation of conservation practices for Virginia farmers

In Virginia, a grant to CBF will provide $498,000, which CBF must raise $55,000 to match, to make it easier for farmers in Virginia’s Shenandoah River watershed to use public cost-share programs to adopt conservation practices like planting forested buffers near waterways and improving grazing management.

CBF will meet with individual landowners, coordinate site visits with local partners, and leverage partners’ water quality expertise. CBF will also engage with the local community and landowners to communicate the benefits of regenerative agriculture.

“Unlike cost-share programs that require the farmer to lay out the money and wait to be reimbursed, this grant will make it possible for CBF to provide a ‘turn-key’ service where we hire the contractor, ensure everything is installed correctly, and make all the payments. All the landowner needs to do is agree to participate,” said CBF Watershed Restoration Scientist Matt Kowalski.  

“We hope this approach, which builds on successful conservation models like the James River Buffer Program, will make it possible for more people to participate in conservation cost-share programs. Through coordination and partnerships, we can have a Shenandoah Valley that continues to produce food and fiber, as well as clean air and water,” Kowalski said.

Lisa Caruso 90x110

Lisa Caruso

Washington, D.C. Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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