Resource management plans are a new way for agricultural producers and landowners to preserve soil and water quality while improving their bottom line.
Plus, there’s this bonus: Farms operating under an RMP plan are deemed to be in compliance with state nutrient and sediment standards for nine years.
The program was launched in 2014 and has been endorsed by both agricultural and environmental leaders. Participation in an RMP plan is completely voluntary, and there’s funding available to help landowners initiate the program.
The program encourages farmers to have a private-sector developer create an RMP plan for their farm or a portion of it. The plan will take into account the property’s existing stream buffer, soil conservation, nutrient management and stream-exclusion practices. The developer will inform the landowner of any additional practices that need to be implemented to qualify for the RMP certificate.
Once the plan is approved and implemented, the property owner is granted certainty from state nutrient and sediment water quality standards for the next nine years.
While the program is new, it’s based on conservation practices that have been used successfully for years. The mix of practices not only helps prevent water pollution, but they keep farms efficient and profitable. Nutrient management plans and soil conservation practices can help maintain nutrients and reduce soil loss. Stream exclusion often leads to healthy herds, fewer veterinary costs and more marketable livestock.
Another positive for the agricultural community is that the program enables better tracking of practices that are in place. This ensures that farmers receive the credit they deserve for helping to protect soil and water resources across Virginia.
Funding is available through the Virginia Agricultural Cost Share program to fund both development of RMPs and the practices needed to complete one.
For more information, including contact information for certified resource management plan developers, visit the DCR RMP website or contact John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District 540-347-3120 x3.
Virginia’s Agricultural Resource Management Plan Program
9 Things Producers Should Know
1. Is the Resource Management Plan Program (RMP) something new?
The RMP is a new way of implementing best management practices that provide the biggest impact on water quality. The practices being implemented are not new, but the provision of nine years of certainty from some environmental regulations is new. The program launched in July 2014 and is administered by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
2. What’s the difference between an RMP and any other conservation plan?
Farms operating under an RMP certificate must follow a nutrient management plan and a conservation plan. Cropland and hay land must have stream buffers, and pasture must have stream exclusion fence.
3. What is certainty?
Once a farm is operating under an RMP certificate, the operator can rest assured that the farm is in compliance with all state nutrient, sediment and water quality-related standards for the next nine years. Certainty pertains to standards associated with TMDLs, or total maximum daily load cleanup plans. However, permit requirements for pollution abatement and pollutant discharge elimination systems still apply. The RMP certificate does not exempt farms from requirements in the Chesapeake Bay Act or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
4. When does certainty begin?
The nine years of certainty begin on the date the state issues the RMP certificate of implementation. The certificate will be issued once all best management practices are installed and functioning.
5. If a producer is already implementing all of the best management practices required in an RMP plan, what is the point of developing a plan and having it verified?
In order to achieve the nine years of certainty, a farm must operate under an RMP certificate. This is in accordance with state laws written expressly for the RMP program. Even if TMDL-related state regulations change, a farm operating under an RMP is still in compliance, and the operator won’t be required to implement new practices.
6. Are there any other benefits to an RMP?
The RMP tracking module will result in better documentation of best management practices. This means farmers will get credit or recognition for the practices they have in place. In addition, long-term farm planning will help cost-share program leaders assess future funding needs. Participation in the RMP program is voluntary.
7. What will it cost to get a plan?
Most RMP plans will be written by private-sector certified RMP developers, so there will be a cost. The state is providing some cost-share funds to cover plan development. Cost-share for the RMP-1 (Plan Development) provides $10 per acre for all eligible acres, not to exceed $6,500 per plan. Cost-share for RMP-2 (Plan Implementation) provides $5 per acre for all eligible acres, not to exceed $3,250 per plan.
8. Is assistance available for the implementation of best management practices needed for an RMP plan?
Farmers with an RMP certificate may receive priority consideration for cost-share funding for best management practices.
9. Whom do I contact about an RMP plan?
Contact your local soil and water conservation district. For Fauquier County, this is the John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District which can be reached at 540-347-3120 x3 or firstname.lastname@example.org