Earlier this month, Governor McAuliffe announced Virginia’s $61 million investment in agricultural best management practices. The governor said as one of our largest private industries, Virginia’s agricultural sector is a key partner in our fight to curb pollution and improve water quality.
He also noted that this investment in agriculture best management practices will give farmers across the Commonwealth the tools and resources necessary to combat runoff, toxins, and byproducts in the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries. He also said that preserving and improving water resources are essential to our economic future and quality of life.
This is the largest single investment since the Water Quality Improvement Fund’s creation in 1998.
We congratulate the Governor on getting this measure through the General Assembly and helping to protect the Shenandoah River and the other rivers throughout the Commonwealth. I firmly believe that a healthy environment leads to a healthy economy. Best management practices implemented on our family farms and forests are good for both the Virginia economy and the environment.
In addition, Governor McAuliffe announced that Virginia will invest $850,000 over the biennial budget to expand its international trade initiatives promoting Virginia’s agriculture and forestry products around the world. With these new funds, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) will open two new trade representative offices in Southeast Asia and the Middle East/Northern Africa region, as well as create a new Richmond-based position to support the newly enhanced global trade network.
Unfortunately, the budget does not provide additional money for VDACS’ Agricultural Stewardship program that promotes stewardship of our land and water resources. This program gives the farmer an opportunity to correct a water pollution problem voluntarily before any enforcement action is taken. The Agricultural Stewardship program can also be an opportunity to educate all parties involved regarding best management practices and agriculture.
Right now, this program is awash in submitted complaints, many of them concerning Shenandoah River water quality issues. Instead of providing additional resources to quickly address the problem, VDACS has asked that organizations such as the Shenandoah Riverkeeper severely curtail our submissions as they are struggling to handle their current workload.
Let’s hope that in the near future, Governor McAuliffe sees fit to provide VDACS sufficient resources so that the Agricultural Stewardship office can do its job.