Millions in funding to help farmers improve conservation efforts

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Millions of dollars have been set aside to help farmers participate in conservation efforts.

Governor Ralph Northam announced this week that $73 million in funding has been approved for the Improved Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program.

This program aims to protect water and soil health by investing to help farmers implement conservation practices.

"This historic investment is exactly the type of commitment we need to ensure more producers can participate in the Commonwealth's cost-sharing program to implement conservation practices and continue improving water quality in Virginia," said Northam. "Whether growing crops, raising cattle, or producing poultry, agricultural best management practices are important tools that can benefit Virginia farms while also helping keep pollution out of our streams and the Chesapeake Bay."

According to a release, the cost-share program is a partnership between the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the soil and water conservation districts across the Commonwealth.

It says individuals, partnerships, trusts and other businesses that are operating farms in Virginia may qualify for cost-share assistance.

Producers should visit their local district office for information and assistance in applying.

Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler says priority practices can include fencing to keep cattle out of streams, animal-waste storage and transport facilities, and riparian buffers, all of which can impact water quality.

"Implementation of these practices is necessary for Virginia to achieve the Chesapeake Bay restoration goals laid out in the upcoming Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan," he said.

The release says participant caps have been raised to $100,000 for fiscal year 2020.

Along with the renewed state Agricultural Best Management Practices Loan Program from the Department of Environmental Quality, installation of such practices is more achievable for farmers.

Beginning July 1, the loan program offers zero-interest loan and can authorize up to 100 percent of loan assistance in the form of principal forgiveness for projects that provide high water quality benefits.

The cost-share program has existed since 1984, and as of July 1, soil and water conservation districts across Virginia will receive a record $9.4 million to provide technical assistance to farmers to implement the program's practices.

The release says many of the requirements and practice specifications have been modified this year to make participation easier and more types of practices have been made available for funding.

For more information on the cost-share program, click on the link in the Related Links box.

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