W.Va. offering free farm nutrient plans as result of Chesapeake Bay regulations

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is offering free nutrient management planning services to farmers.

The department is focusing the program’s activities in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, where concerns about the health of the Chesapeake Bay have prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a strict “pollution diet,” or total maximum daily load (TMDL), for the entire bay watershed.

“Nutrient management planning is a vital conservation practice because it provides the framework for many other conservation activities,” said West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass.

Farm specific

A nutrient management plan is a farm-specific plan that uses analysis of soil samples, nutrient sources and farm management preferences to develop strategies that prevent excess nutrients from making their way into streams.

A plan also may recommend measures such as establishing buffer strips or setbacks to help prevent nutrient and sediment loss.

Farmers in Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties interested in developing a NMP should call Christine Barnes at 304-229-5828. Farmers in other areas should call WVDA’s Moorefield office at 304-538-2397.

Hopes for more funding

Douglass said he has requested funding for two additional nutrient management planners in the next fiscal year budget to help assist farmers throughout the state, and not just in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“We’re really trying to reach out to the farms that don’t have a NMP so they can take stock of their fertilizer use and environmental impact,” he said.

“I have always believed that farm conservation should be a cooperative venture with government and not an enforcement action by government.”

Douglass said voluntary best management practices, some implemented through cost-share programs, are already in place.

“As we get even more farms with NMPs, I predict we’ll find that there are a lot more undocumented conservation practices on the ground than people would expect,” he said.

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