RICHMOND—Virginia farm and forestland owners have put in place 326 Resource Management Plans that cover 68,147 acres, according to a report released Dec. 7 by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. The report covers progress of the state Resource Management Plan Program between Nov. 1, 2015, and Oct. 31. It notes that the program surpassed its 2016 goal of 10,000 acres covered by RMPs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by more than 7,000 acres. The RMP Program promotes the voluntary use of agricultural best management practices that maximize water quality protection. Each plan is custom-written for a participating farm and includes, at minimum, those BMPs that have proved most effective at reducing runoff pollution to local waters. The program also encourages farmers to take conservation to the next level. The RMP Program was created after passage of related state legislation in 2011, and its regulations took effect in 2014. DCR and the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board worked with representatives from soil and water conservation districts, agricultural commodity groups, conservation organizations, and state and federal agencies to develop program specifics. Forty-seven RMPs covering more than 19,500 acres were developed in the past 12 months, and in that same time the program expanded into 10 new counties in the bay watershed. “We are pleased by the progression of the program as new participants are having plans written, participants are installing and implementing planned BMPs and others are in the final stages of becoming certified,” said DCR Director Clyde Cristman. “With each plan, we know we are making contributions toward meeting the department’s nonpoint source pollution reduction goals. The farmer is getting credit for practices that are installed and implemented, including those practices installed voluntarily at the farmer’s expense, and the farmer can take pride in the fact that he or she is meeting a higher standard of conservation and retaining our important soil resources.” The DCR report, available at dcr.virginia.gov/soil-and-water/document/rmp-program-highlights.pdf, notes that the average plan coverage area is 209 acres. Land currently enrolled in the program includes 57,791 acres of cropland, 6,524 acres of hayland and 6,514 acres of pasture. Current RMPs indicate more than 2,100 agricultural BMPs are in place to protect natural resources; 1,621 of those practices meet or exceed minimum requirements. Two hundred sixty-four BMPs installed or implemented using state or federal cost-share assistance have been completed; another 625 have been proposed to be installed or implemented using cost-share assistance; and 1,281 are proposed to be installed without cost-share assistance. On Nov. 29, DCR, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services introduced a sign that recognizes RMP-certified farm locations. RMP Program participants will be able to purchase a sign to display on their property. Media: Contact Pam Wiley, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1128.