Agricultural BMP

Purpose of the Program

The cost-share program was developed to deal with the nonpoint source pollution resulting from agriculture.  Non-point source pollution cannot be traced to a single source.  Instead, acres of cropland leak small amounts of nutrients, pesticides, sediments, heavy metals, and toxic substances into waters.  The non-point solution can originate from several different sources, including non-irrigated and irrigated croplands, orchard/fruit crop pollution, animal production on pastureland and feedlots, and livestock facilities.  

In agricultural areas, this non-point source pollution can add up to a large problem.  In the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) study estimated that 27% of the phosphorus and 60% of the nitrogen pollution entering the bay originated as agricultural nonpoint source pollution.  

Riparian buffer.

A common type of BMP used to deal with agricultural runoff is the riparian forest buffer, like the one shown above.  A riparian forest buffer is a strip of forested land along the edges of a stream or river.  The forested area slows the rate of the runoff and captures many of the pollutants before they can enter the stream.  Buffers must be at least twenty-five feet wide and must be fenced off from pastures so that livestock will not trample the soil and cause erosion.  In addition to treating waste from pastures and cropland, these buffers serve as wildlife habitat.  

In addition to riparian buffers, other agricultural BMP's include sinkhole protection, capping/plugging abandoned wells, wetland restoration, constructed wetlands, legume cover crop, and many others.  Some of the agricultural BMP's are similar to the stormwater BMP's we will be considering in this course, including surface water runoff impoundments and stormwater retention ponds.  

History  and Management of the Program

The BMP program came into existence under the Clean Water Act of 1987.  In August 1988, the Virginia Non-point Source Pollution Management Program was developed, and it was then approved by the EPA in July 1989. 

The cost-share program is administered by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and is funded with the state Water Quality Improvement Funds through local Soil and Water Conservation Districts.  Districts administer the incentive program locally to encourage farmers and landowners to apply needed BMP's to their land to better control sediment, nutrient loss, and transportation of pollutants into our waters from excessive flow, erosion, leaching, and inadequate animal waste management.  The basis of the program is to encourage the voluntary installation of agricultural best management practices.

The cost-share program will fund up to 75% of the cost of the BMP, with a maximum payment of $50,000 per farm.  The program can also be used as a tax credit.  

Applying for the Program

Your local Soil and Water Conservation District can help you develop an agricultural BMP.  You can find out which district you live in at Virginia's Soil and Water Conservation Districts by Locality.

Your Soil and Water Conservation District will also give you an application for financial assistance.  The worksheet is an evaluation form for the landowner, the farm, and the status of the farm.  The top of the worksheet is straightforward.  Client is the farmer, owner, or tenant's name.  Farm number and tract number is assigned by FSA (Farm Service Agency) to an aerial photo of the farm.  On the aerial photo, the fields are also numbered.  Operator status is whether the farmer is the owner or a tenant.  Specification number is what better management practice the farmer intends to install.  Extent requested is the amount of blue line stream in linear feet.  Plan written date is when the conservation plan was written.  HU (Hydrologic number) is the hydrologic unit that the farm is in.  Program is cost-share, tax credit or both.