Environmentalists lobbied Congress for years to put millions of dollars into the national Farm Bill to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay. After all, they argued, the biggest source of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Bay today is agriculture.
Finally, those efforts have paid off: Virginia received nearly $7 million this year, the most of any state near the Bay, to assist farmers who want to implement greener land practices.
However, spreading the word that the money has actually arrived from Washington is proving tricky, officials say, especially after so many years of false starts and faded promises.
At the Chesapeake office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, for example, no aid applications had been submitted by local farmers as of late last month.
"A lot of people might not have heard about it or read about it," said Robert Williams, the Chesapeake district conservationist. "It's hard for us to sell it, but we're trying to get the word out."
Since January, a total of $23 million in federal farm aid has been distributed to six states, from New York to Virginia, as part of a $188 million commitment to the Bay through 2012.
Environmentalists and officials describe the funding as the largest cash infusion ever for agricultural conservation in a single watershed - the Chesapeake.