Virginia announces Small Herd Initiative to help protect waterways

Virginia announces Small Herd Initiative to help protect waterways
Livestock fencing keeps cattle out of water ways at Dividing Ridge Farms. (Source: WHSV)

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Virginia continues to work to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay. One way of doing that is getting farmers to protect streams with fencing.

Virginia is offering a reimbursement program where farmers can get money back for installing fences on their property.

“We’ve had great success with the program. We’ve actually participated with the program twice now, and we’re looking at a third project,” Ashlyn Clemmer with Dividing Ridge Farms in Augusta County, said.

Clemmer noted that the program not only has helped from an environmental standpoint, but it also helps the livestock.

“You get good water sources that are reliable to your livestock other than getting in the waterways and getting livestock waste in our water systems,” Clemmer said.

Thanks to a boost in reimbursement rates, participation in the fencing program across the state nearly doubled in the past year.

More than 900 farmers are already on track to install fencing like this to keep livestock out of waterways in 2021, but the Small Herd Initiative was created to encourage even more farmers to promote a healthier Chesapeake Bay.

About $2.26 million have been approved for the Small Herd Initiative, which will start on July 1, 2021, giving small cattle operations up to $25,000 to install streamside fencing.

“The average beef cow herd size is approximately 30 cows, so when you’re talking a small herd initiative like that, that is going to encompass a significant amount of farms in Virginia,” Bradley Dunsmore, President of the Augusta County Farm Bureau, said.

He added it may take some time to see full participation.

“Farmers very very much care about water quality, but this was always going to be a slow transition and it’s not a transition that you can expect to see anytime soon because there are just some prosperities where the feasibility of this, there are limitations to it,” Dunsmore said.

He said it’s not just up to the farmers, though, to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

“Obviously, livestock plays a role, but we humans, I think, play a much more prominent role in the cleanliness of our Bay,” Dunsmore said.

You can read more about the livestock fencing programs, here.

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