How Virginia Farmers Protect Clean Water & Wildlife

In the Mid-Atlantic region, our staff often encounter the common misconception that protecting the environment and supporting farmers are incompatible. This is likely because agriculture is the largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution reaching local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

However, the narrative that farmers don’t care about the environment or preserving wildlife habitat is simply untrue. In fact, farmers are some of our most valuable conservationists and understand the impact humans can have on the environment better than anyone. However, farmers often lack the resources needed to implement conservation practices on their land.

The Commonwealth of Virginia understands this barrier and has created an Agricultural Cost Share Program. This program is designed to help farmers implement best management practices (BMPs) on their land by offsetting the costs of conservation projects. BMPs include projects like fencing to keep cows out of waterways, planting trees along stream-banks, and instituting rotational grazing practices. Not only are these practices good for the environment, but they help increase a farmer’s bottom-line.

The Agricultural Cost Share Program helps Virginia’s frogs, birds, and other wildlife that depend on clean water. Credit: Nylia Laney.

For instance, cattle farmers who have implemented BMPs on their property have been able to increase the number of cattle they raise and have seen a decrease in the occurrence of disease.

Sounds great, right? One problem: the amount of money available for these projects varies from year to year and, in some areas of the state, the demand exceeds available funds.

Virginia members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, a coalition of more than 230 nonprofit organizations across the Chesapeake Bay watershed dedicated to restoring and protecting clean water and hosted by the National Wildlife Federation, united to advocate for continued, and increased, funding for the Agricultural Cost Share Program.The Coalition spoke with three different farmers in different parts of the Virginia who were willing to talk about their experience with the program.

Watch, learn, and share this video on Twitter to help us convince the Virginia General Assembly to allocate more funding to this incredible program that supports farmers and wildlife conservation.