When talking to farmers about clean water goals, we hear, time and again, that the real barrier to implementing practices like stream-side fencing and riparian buffers of trees and shrubs is the cost. Funding for these agricultural best management practices (BMPs) support our local Soil and Water Conservation Districts that offer up a suite of conservation practices that improve farm operation and water quality. The farmer is responsible for reaching out to the agency, determining what can be implemented on their land, and paying for installation. Once the installation is complete, the District reimburses the landowner, usually at 75% of the project cost.
When more landowners participate in these programs and implement these practices, our region has stronger local food systems, better local water quality for drinking, recreation and tourism and more jobs—someone needs to install the fencing and sell the materials. Plus, with cleaner water in our streams, our communities will spend less money for treatment of our drinking water. Ultimately, implementation of BMPs on working landscapes is win-win-win for the farmer, their community and clean water.
We’re advocating that the state keep funding and financial incentives for the Districts’ programs steady to pay for District technical staff and reimburse farmers for their projects.
Virginia Agriculture Cost-Share Program (VACS):
Current FY22: $65M
Recommended: $100M/per year
Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Agricultural Needs Assessment identifies $100 million for agricultural practices. Practices like fencing cattle out of streams and planting streamside buffers are among the most cost-effective steps Virginia can take to restore the Bay and local waterways. Full funding to meet the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Agricultural Needs Assessment will ensure consistent and adequate annual funding of cost share programs and provide Virginia farmers with the necessary resources to implement these conservation practices.
Funding conservation programs that protect our farm and forested lands support the agricultural, forestry, and tourism sectors of our economy, preserve our historic and cultural resources, protect wildlife habitats, maintain our high quality of life and provide big savings in public spending. Conserving rural lands centralizes roads, schools, water, sewer and other services in and around our towns where it is cheaper to build and maintain this infrastructure.
Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund:
Current FY22: $1M
Recommended: $5M/per year
The Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund was established in 2007 to provide dollar-for-dollar matching funds to localities that invest in farmland preservation programs. This state funding can be further leveraged with other federal, state and private sources, allowing an even higher return on the investment by localities. Unfortunately, since its inception the program has been woefully underfunded, leaving many localities without the funding needed to advocate for land protection.
Virginia Land Conservation Foundation:
Current FY22: $10M
Recommended: $40M/per year
Virginia Land Conservation Foundation provides state matching grants for the protection of open spaces and parks, natural areas, historic areas, and farmland and forest preservation. The current budget amount is the highest level of funding the program has received in prior years, however, it is still well below the estimated funding needs.
Virginia Battlefield Protection Foundation:
Current FY22: $1M
Recommended: $5M/per year
Fully funding Virginia Battlefield Protection Foundation is of critical importance to help protect the Commonwealth’s important historic resources, and ensures that Virginia does not miss out on millions of dollars in federal matching grants for battlefield preservation administered by the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program.
Trails connect communities and are vital to Virginia’s outdoor recreation economy and public health. Trails provide multi-modal transportation—decreasing vehicles on the road, reducing stress on our transportation systems and are better for the environment. Throughout the COVID pandemic, the need for increased access to recreation sites and new recreational opportunities across the state became apparent.
The Alliance is pleased to be a partner in exploring the conversion of a discontinued Norfolk Southern rail line into a multi-purpose trail in Shenandoah, Rockingham and Warren counties. We will continue to look for opportunities, such as the Shenandoah Rail Trail, to ensure the increased need and demand for trails in the Valley is met. To support this need, we encourage recurring funding for the planning, development and construction of the state’s trail systems.
Multi-use Trail Funding
A needed $233 million dollars is in the proposed budget to support the planning, development, and construction of multi-use trails in the Commonwealth to include the Fall Line Trail in central Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley Rail Trail, and the Eastern Shore Rail Trail. Please reach out to your legislator today and let them know you support this funding that will take our trail and other trails like it across the state one step closer to reality!