Close to 100,000 acres of Va. farmland in conservation program

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Just three years after Virginia’s Resource Management Plan Program was implemented, the program has far exceeded its goal.

More than 92,000 acres throughout the state are now included in 388 resource management plans, or RMPs. The original goal established by the state’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan was to have RMPs developed for 10,000 acres.

The plans, which are tailored for each participating farm, require participants to install or implement specific agricultural best management practices. They also document practices already in use.

The RMP Program is the first of its kind for any state in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It was approved by the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board in 2013 and was implemented in July 2014. It is administered by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“A perfect fit”

Paul Davis and his father, Clifton “Boogie” Davis, enrolled all 500 acres of their New Kent County farm, Davis Produce, as soon as the program started. “We were already doing everything they were asking us to do, so it was a perfect fit,” remarked Paul Davis. The Davises use no-till planting, wildlife buffers around waterways and cover crops on their barley, corn, small grain, soybeans and pumpkin fields.

“Our philosophy is to have something green growing all the time,” Davis said. “I like to think we are on the cutting edge of agriculture and environmental quality.”

More than 2,300 acres certified

To encourage greater implementation of RMP plans, a stakeholder advisory group examined funding, training and resource needs. The group included representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Virginia Department of Natural Resources, the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the Virginia Agribusiness Council, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other organizations.

The group submitted a legislative report on Oct. 1, 2017, that said 50 RMPs were currently in the development stage; 323 had been approved by soil and water conservation districts; and 15 were under review by those districts. Of the 388 total plans, four were awaiting certification inspections and 10 had been fully implemented and certified. That totals 2,335 certified acres.

The group also discussed potential marketing strategies that could be used to increase awareness of the RMP Program. DCR designed a new logo for the program, and producers with a certified RMP may purchase a sign that features the logo.

The Davises purchased a sign to post on their property and said it helps brings attention to their conservation efforts—especially when hosting groups on their farm.

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