Conservation plan implemented for Virginia farmers

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Virginia has launched a new conservation plan for the state’s farmers, designed to increase voluntary soil and water conservation farming techniques while improving health of the Chesapeake Bay.

The program encourages farmers to have a private-sector developer create a resource management plan (RMP) for their farm or any portion of it. The plan would include the property’s management and stream exclusion practices and recommend other practices needed. Once approved and implemented, the property is deemed in compliance with state nutrient and sediment water quality standards for nine years.

The program was created by 2011 legislation passed by the General Assembly. Del. Ed Scott, R-Madison, and state Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, sponsored the legislation.

“The idea behind the RMP was to advance water quality improvement, and at the same time provide farmers an opportunity for some regulatory assurance,” Scott said in a statement. “We’ve got farmers who have put literally thousands of best management practices on the ground, through this process we’ll give them credit for those practices and help identify other practices available to make further progress on water quality goals.”

RMPs are designed to help farmers in become more efficient and profitable by helping them use fertilizers more wisely, increasing yields and improving livestock health, safety and productivity.

The certainty afforded to farmers with an RMP plan will also provide them greater confidence as they plan for investments in their operations going forward.

The program also will document practices in use, providing data to validate the agricultural sector’s level of conservation implementation. This data should allow lawmakers to determine future funding needs for cost-share and other incentives.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation is currently working to expand the number of developers available to farmers and is accepting applications for certified resource management plan developers. Money is available through the Virginia Agricultural Cost Share program to fund both the development and implementation of RMPs and the practices needed to complete one.

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