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.
Budget Amendments 373 #4H and 373 #2S: Agricultural Best Management Practices
Introduced by Senator Hanger and Delegate Bulova, these amendments add an additional $63 million in funding for the Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share Program (VACS), bringing the total up to the $100 million required as determined by the state’s own needs assessment.
Not to be forgotten, these conservation programs work hand-in-hand with agricultural BMPs to provide significant water quality benefits. Funding these programs at the levels below will help ensure Virginia meets its 2025 water quality goals.
Budget Amendments 373 #3H and 373 #1S: Urban Best Management Practices
Introduced by Senator Hanger and Delegate Plum these amendments add $500,000 to the budget to increase funding to solve stormwater and erosion issues on private property to $1 million.
Budget Amendments C-70 #1H and C-70 #2S: Stormwater Local Assistance Fund
Introduced by Senator Hanger and Delegate Bulova, these amendments add an additional $51 million in funding for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) to provide matching grants to localities for projects that address stormwater and flooding issues.
Budget Amendments C-70 #2H and C-70 #1S: Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades
Introduced by Senator Hanger and Delegate Bulova, these amendments add an additional $40 million to support the reductions of sewage pollution to our local waterways.
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. The Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund was established in 2007 to provide grant funding to localities for farmland preservation programs. Unfortunately, since its inception the program has been woefully underfunded, leaving many localities without the funding needed to advocate for land protection. We were excited to see and support Delegate Gooditis’ proposal below to increase the program’s funding.
Budget amendment 97 #2H: $2M to the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund
Introduced by Delegate Gooditis, this amendment adds an additional $2 million to provide much-need matching funds and encourages providing localities to develop robust land conservation programs. Current funding is only $250,000.
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. Over the past months of 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.
Budget Amendments 447-H and 447 #1S
Provides support for the development of multi-use trails. The Governor and the House’s investment of $5 million (447-H) for multi-use trail development and the Senate budget amendment to increase capitalization of $40 million (447 #1S) for a statewide multi-use trail initiative will promote public health, local economies, and the quality of life for communities across Virginia.