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.
Watch this video, a segment of the Virginia Farm Bureau's TV show Real Virginia, to learn more about the RMP program.
The resource management plan concept was developed at the urging of the Virginia agricultural community. The approach provides a comprehensive assessment of the conservation needs of a farming operation. Not only will RMPs serve as a tool to encourage BMP implementation, but it will also document practices in use, providing verified data to validate the agricultural sector’s level of conservation implementation. Better tracking of agricultural BMPs through the use of resource management plans will also provide decision makers more accurate data when determining future funding needs for cost-share and other incentive programs.
In 2011, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 1830 (Chapter 781 of the 2011 Virginia Acts of Assembly), which allowed for the creation of the RMP program. Representatives from agricultural commodity groups, conservation organizations, and state and federal agencies developed the RMP regulations. The Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board approved the regulations in 2013. The effective date of the regulations is July 1, 2014.
You’ll find more background on the regulations development here.
A farm owner or operator can chose to have an RMP on the whole farm, a tract or just one field. RMPs can be developed for crop, hay or pasture land uses. All RMPs must contain a nutrient management plan and a soil conservation plan to reduce soil loss to “T”. Crop and hay land require a 35-foot forested or vegetative buffer adjacent to perennial streams. Pasture fields must have livestock excluded from perennial streams, hardened stream crossings and alternative watering systems. Also, the plan must be written by a certified RMP developer.
The regulations set specific criteria for becoming a certified RMP developer. All RMP developers must be a certified nutrient management planner in Virginia. Candidates must also demonstrate a suite of conservation and water quality planning skills or be a certified NRCS conservation planner. Finally, an application must be submitted to DCR for evaluation.
DCR will begin accepting applications and issuing certificates in July.
The process for an operation to become certified as having implemented a resource management plan is depicted below.
Assessment – A certified RMP developer visits the operation, meets with the farmer, evaluates the land and practices in place, and begins development of options to meet the requirements.
Plan Development – The certified RMP developer meets with the farmer and discusses options to meet the requirements. Once the farmer agrees to the particular BMP(s) and a schedule for implementation, the RMP may be submitted to the review authority (the local soil and water conservation district or DCR) for review and approval.
Plan Implementation – Once the approved plan has been fully implemented, the farmer may request that the review authority visit the farm to verify implementation. A certificate of RMP implementation is issued once the review authority determines full implementation.
Verification – Continued verification visits are conducted every few years to ensure the continued proper functioning and maintenance of the BMPs.
Funding is being made available to pay for the development of resource management plans. Cost-share funding is available for most of the BMPs needed to meet RMP requirements.