Cost-share funding helps both farmers and environment

RICHMOND—Virginia Farm Bureau Federation has lobbied on behalf of its producer members this winter for adequate state funding of cost-share money for best management practices.

BMPs, as they are called, are used by farmers to help improve their operations and protect the environment. But many of the practices are not cheap.

“Our farmers want to do the right thing, and most of them are doing it but they often don’t have unlimited funds to make all of the environmental improvements that are possible,” said Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations. “When cost-share money is available, many more farmers are likely to participate in making these conservation improvements.”

Often the number of farmers requesting assistance in implementing BMPs far exceeds the amount of cost-share money available through state or federal programs, Stoneman explained.

Farm Bureau members met with their representatives at the Virginia General Assembly Jan. 29 to discuss the importance of adequate funding for the Virginia Agricultural BMP Cost-Share Program.

One of the most common practices implemented under the state’s cost-share program is stream exclusion fencing. The practice keeps livestock out of streams, potentially improving their health while reducing erosion of streambanks and protecting the quality of the water.

Bob and Susan Threewitts are good examples of farmers who have implemented stream exclusion fencing.

The Threewitts raise about 200 cows and calves on Twin Oaks Farm in Rockingham County. Their farm is at the beginning of Cub Run, a tributary of the Shenandoah River. There also are two feeder streams that traverse a 90-acre pasture on the main farm, and the couple wanted to fence their cattle out of all three bodies of water.

Fencing supplies are not cheap, and the Threewitts utilized a federal cost-share grant from the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network, administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service. They built fences on either side of the streams to keep the cattle from drinking the water or wading in it. A buffer strip of vegetation runs along each stream, and the Threewitts also planted sod and trees.

Virginia Tech put water monitoring stations along the streams, and “bottom line,” Bob Threewitts said, “when the water leaves the farm, it’s cleaner than when it enters our property.”

He said the herd and the water in the stream are both healthier because of the environmental practices.

Cost-share practices often are funded with a combination of state and federal funds, which is why state funding is so important to Virginia farmers.

Media: Contact Stoneman at 804-290-1024.

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