STRASBURG — Folks can once again apply to take part in the Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share Program, which is managed by the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District (LFSWCD) for landowners interested in adding conservation practices to their operations.

For Fiscal Year 2022, which runs from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, LFSWCD was allocated another record high amount from the state of Virginia budget, totaling approximately $4.8 million, according to a news release from the LFSWCD.

These funds will be used to install best management practices (BMPs) on agriculture operations within the Lord Fairfax District, which includes Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah and Frederick counties. The VACS program is a voluntary program and focuses on improving water quality locally and within the greater watershed.

The VACS program offers over 70 practices that cover the full spectrum of agricultural operations. Whether you grow crops, raise livestock or poultry, there are BMPs that can benefit you, according to the LFSWCD release.

“While all the eligible practices are known to improve or protect water quality, many can also increase your farm’s productivity by conserving soil and making wise use of other agricultural resources,” the release said.

Popular practices include: livestock stream exclusion (including alternative water systems) with a buffer incentive payment, tree plantings, cropland conversion to hay or pasture, various manure waste management options, cover crops for all seasons and nutrient management. All practices are cost-shared differently. Some are paid a flat rate or by acre, while others are reimbursed by a percentage basis of up to 100%.

In order to be eligible for the VACS program, an operation must have more that five acres of continuous land and make over $1,000 of on-farm profit each year. All eligible practices must address a water quality concern and will be approved based on environmental impact.

According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), “The cost-share program supports various practices in conservation planning to treat cropland, pastureland, hay land and forested land. The cost-share program's practices can often be funded by a combination of state and federal funds, reducing the landowner‘s expense to less than 30% of the total cost.”

Individuals, trusts, partnerships and other businesses seeking cost-share assistance must apply at their local soil and water conservation district.

Because demand for cost-share assistance is great, SWCDs support the implementation of only those plans that meet local water quality guidelines. Priority ranking of practices must be used to make sure funds are spent wisely, the DCR website said.

An individual may receive a maximum of $150,000 per year for cost-share.

For more information, contact the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District at (540) 465-2424 ext. 5.