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EPA Looking to Credit Virginia Farmers for Conservation Practices

During an online press conference last week, EPA staff emphasized the agency's commitment to complete and detailed accounting for all conservation practices in place throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed as it develops a TMDL for the entire bay.

"We want to be sure we give every farmer credit for what [they] are doing out there," said Richard Batiuk, associate director of science for the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program Office.

As the draft TMDL for the Bay has been developed over the past year, concern has arisen among farmers that the EPA's data on agricultural conservation has excluded voluntary practices not installed under any public cost-share program. That, some fear, could result in a disproportionate burden placed on farmers to reduce nutrients and sediment washing into the Bay.

Speaking during the press conference held to discuss progress on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, Batiuk acknowledged that the EPA's models so far have not included data for voluntary conservation practices that have not been reported to public agencies. He said, however, that the EPA, USDA and other partner agencies are working hard to develop a system to count, verify and include voluntary practices that have so far been overlooked.

"We've heard this concern [as well]," said Al Pollock, from the Virginia DEQ's Office of Water Quality Programs, who also spoke during the event.

Pollock added that better communication between farmers, agricultural agencies and environmental regulators will be the key to collecting accurate data on those voluntary conservation measures now in place on farms throughout the region.

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