Historically, Soil & Water Conservation Districts have been most well-known for their assistance to the agricultural community. By providing technical and financial resources, Districts assist farmers in managing their lands to protect soil and water resources, while maximizing productivity. District staff works directly with farmers to plan and design practices, and develop farm conservation plans that meet the needs of individual landowners. And, through a variety of funding sources, the TJSWCD provides cost share and/or tax incentives for the installation of many of those conservation practices. Practices commonly implemented in our area include, but are not limited to:
- restricting livestock access to streams
- providing alternative livestock water systems
- planting cover crops
- converting cropland to grass
- converting agricultural land to permanent forest
- planting riparian forest buffers
- improving wildlife habitat
- implementing no-till cropping systems
- implementing nutrient management techniques through nutrient management planning
Funding for conservation practices is available through a variety of programs, some administered by the TJSWCD and some through other organizations. District staff is knowledgeable about the changing programs and criteria of most programs. They will work with other organizations to guide landowners to the most appropriate funding sources and technical assistance for each situation.
If you are interested in applying for cost share for conservation, or if you would just like a staff member to come out to provide conservation assistance, please call Lisa Hyatt at 434-975-0224 Ext 110.
Agricultural conservation has benefits both on and off the farm
- Improved water quality downstream – Best management practices (BMPs) will protect surface water quality on the farm and downstream … In this area, water quality improvements will be felt all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.
- Increased Productivity – Limiting livestock access to streams and providing an alternative water sources improves the quality of drinking water for animals. When given the choice between clean water and streams, cattle prefer to drink water from the cleanest sources. Farmers typically see increases in weight gain of 5-10% within the first year of changing from stream water to water troughs. If calves are selling for $0.60 per pound, this increase in productivity results in an additional $15 per calf!
- Fewer Incidents of Disease and Injury
- Many harmful organisms can be present in streams, including the microorganisms that cause foot rot, red nose, bovine virus diarrhea, tuberculosis, jaundice, and environmental mastitis. Fencing livestock out of streams and providing a clean water source reduces contact with these germs. Keeping cattle out of streams can also avoid leg injuries that occur by walking up or down muddy and steep stream banks. Eliminating stream access can also reduce mortality during calving, as cows are unable to calve in wet areas or near unstable stream banks.
- Easy Pasture Management – Placing water troughs throughout a pasture improves forage utilization. Water toughs can be placed strategically and used with a rotational grazing system to increase productivity and forage use efficiency.
- Economic Opportunities – Planting trees along stream banks or on steep slopes can provide opportunities for selective harvesting of lumber or cutting firewood. Nut- or fruit-bearing trees may also provide income. Farmers who take advantage of the CREP program, are paid an annual rental payment for allowing trees to grow in riparian buffer areas. These buffer areas are also great for wildlife, providing hunting opportunities.
- Aesthetics – Fencing livestock out of streams reduces streambank erosion and allows denuded areas to heal. Healthy vegetation, whether on pastures, hayfields, or forested areas add beauty and value to your property.
The Clean Water Farm Award Program was established through the Code of Virginia, § 10.1-104.3. Administered through the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the program recognizes farms in the Commonwealth which utilize practices designed to protect water quality and soil resources. Each year, the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District provides local level awards in each of our two major watersheds (James River Watershed and York River Watershed). The TJSWCD may then submit these winners as nominees for the “Grand Basin” Awards, which are selected by DCR for each of Virginia’s major river basins. Click here for a glimpse at some past winners.
To nominate your farm or another farm that shows exceptional use of conservation practices, click here for a fillable nomination form.
The Virginia Resource Management Planning Program provides a voluntary way to promote the use of conservation practices that improve farming operations and water quality. Resource management plans can help farm owners and operators take advantage of all the conservation measures at their disposal. The plans are designed to encourage farmers, either the farm owner or operator, to use a high level of best management practices (BMPs) that reduce runoff pollution to local waters and, in many cases, improve the farmer’s financial bottom line. In return for full implementation, the plan holder can be assured that he or she is in compliance with any new state nutrient, sediment and water quality standards; in particular, regulations related to the Chesapeake Bay and all local stream segment TMDLs. The certificate of safe harbor is valid for nine years provided the farmer continues to implement the RMP. Participation in the program is completely voluntary.
Impaired Waterways & TMDLs
Virginia Agricultural Cost Share & Tax Credit Programs
Virginia Agricultural Cost Share Program Manual
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
Virginia Natural Resources Conservation Service
Natural Resources Conservation Service for Science and Technology Conservation Webinars
Virginia Agricultural Stewardship Act