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Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Driving along the Interstate 81 corridor, you can see the benefits that past farm bills have brought to water quality in the Shenandoah Valley. You see where farmers have planted trees alongside streams and installed fences to keep livestock out of the water. You see stream crossings, watering troughs, heifer barns and manure sheds — all in an effort to reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff from farmland.
Farmers across Virginia have put these conservation practices in place, some on their own and some with the help of state and federal cost-share programs, because they want to be good stewards of their land.
It is time for all of the Virginia representatives to the U.S. House to step up and help pass a farm bill that will support the continued improvement of water quality in Virginia’s rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay. Valley farmers benefited from Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s leadership during the 2008 Farm Bill negotiations, when he helped secure funds for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical assistance to area farmers and cost-share funding for conservation practices. Both the Senate and the House farm bills reduce and consolidate the number of conservation programs nationally, reducing mandatory funding over the 10-year baseline by $3.5 billion in the Senate’s version and $4.8 billion in the House version; however, the Senate version would provide 66 percent more funding than the House version for critical conservation areas like the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Reduced funding will impede Virginia’s ability to meet the goals of its watershed implementation plan, which will impact water quality across the state.
We need Goodlatte to exhibit the same strong leadership that resulted in adequate funding for conservation practices that improve the health of our streams and protect the quality of life we love in this region. The momentum toward improved water quality in Virginia will be slowed or stopped if adequate funding is not approved in this year’s farm bill.
The livelihoods of our farmers in the valley and hundreds of Virginia watermen downstream depend on improving the water quality. In addition, healthy waters will benefit many Virginians who serve out-of-state visitors and the state residents who fish and swim in our rivers, streams and lakes each year.