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Date: May 13, 2013

Final regulations for voluntary agricultural resource management plans published

Final regulations for the state's first agricultural resource management plans were published last week following recent approval by the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board. The board's action also includes a delayed effective date of Dec. 2013 to allow for development of procedures needed to implement the plans.

While regulations set out the requirements for the plans, farmers enter into a resource management plan voluntarily. They are designed to encourage farmers to use a high level of conservation best management practices to reduce runoff pollution to state waters and the Chesapeake Bay. In return for full implementation of these plans, farmers are insured a "safe harbor" from relevant state nutrient, sediment and bacterial-related water quality requirements. Plans are effective for nine years with compliance inspections every three.

Resource management plans cover all water quality-related aspects of farm operations. Plans must be written by state certified plan developers for crop, hay and pasture lands. Specific practices included in these plans include nutrient management planning, 35' riparian buffers, animal stream exclusion and soil loss practices.

Regulations for the plans were developed with considerable input from conservation and agricultural groups. A regulatory advisory panel made up of representatives from these groups met five times over seven months. Three public meetings were held and nearly 100 public comments considered in developing the regulations.

Prior to the Dec. effective date Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation staff will be developing the forms, guidelines and procedures needed to implement an effective program. They will develop plan developer certification and work with the state's 47 soil and water conservation districts on plan review, inspections and program delivery.  




The resource management plan is a new tool as we continue to work with the state's farmers to use conservation practices that are beneficial to their operations and to our water quality. The plans join the state's agricultural cost share and nutrient management programs as ways to help farmers adopt beneficial practices in their operations.

-         - David Johnson, Director, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation


This is another excellent example of how Virginia's agricultural community is committed to the environmental conservation.  Virginia's Chesapeake Bay cleanup identifies agricultural resource management plans as a key component for Bay restoration.  We are proud that Virginia is the first Bay state to develop and pass this type of agricultural certainty program.  Other states are now following our lead in developing similar programs for their farming communities.

-         - Doug Domenech, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources


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