My late father-in-law was a successful farmer and cooperative extension agent with 40 year- experience who advised farmers in his county on crop management, land and water use, fertilizers, soil analysis, pests, and plant and animal disease. He valued the land he owned and knew that it was very important to properly care for the soil, the water, and animals in such a way that it would not compromise the environment and the success of his farm in the future. His knowledge was based on his Master's degree, research developed at nearby universities, and personal experience in farming for decades.

Virginia Cooperative Extension also offers an array of professional advice to farmers with their co-op extension agents who are knowledgeable and offer their expert advice. They include among many services: marketing, animal husbandry, crops and soils, environment and natural resources, finance, food, nutrition, health, lawn and garden, nursery, greenhouse, turf, specialty agriculture, and 4-H.

It was thus very surprising when Governor Terry McAuliffe announced on August 25, 2014, a new Agriculture Resource Management Plan. This voluntary program "encourages farmers to increase their use of conservation best management practices while providing the community quantifiable credit for the practices they already have in place" and "better tracking the programs that farmers already have in place." I am not sure what this quantifiable credit is going to do, but I do understand the word "tracking."

The program, a partnership between "natural resource agencies and the agricultural community," will ensure that farmers will be "good stewards" of our "precious natural resources."

Representatives present at the ARMP promotion were Virginia Farm Bureau, the Virginia Agribusiness Council, the Virginia Dairymen's Association, the Virginia Cattlemen Association, the Virginia Poultry Federation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

The Agricultural Resource Management Plan (ARMP) was actually approved in the 2011 General Assembly session to "advance water quality improvement" and to provide farmers an "opportunity for some regulatory assurance."

ARMP "encourages farmers to have a private sector RMP developer create a plan for their farm or any portion of it. The plan will incorporate the property's current stream buffer, soil conservation, nutrient management and stream exclusion practices and recommend other practices needed. Once the plan is approved and implemented, the property is deemed to be in compliance with state nutrient and sediment water quality standards. This certainty remains in place during the plan's nine-year lifespan." (Who is not eager to have their farm activity locked in environmental compliance for nine years and a private sector bureaucrat tell them how to run their farm?)

Delegate Steve Landes (R-Augusta) was pleased that ARMP was "approved with support from the agricultural and environmental community."

"Virginia is the nation's fifth state, and the first in the Chesapeake Bay region, with an agricultural certainty program."

Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta County), pointing out the need to credit farmers for their stewardship of Virginia's natural resources said, "Protecting our farmers and our natural resources are one in the same." Except when natural resources are protected, environmentalists tend to take the land out of production or place many strings attached to production, while farmers are interested in producing food on their land.

DCR is "accepting applications for certified resource management plan developers." These bureaucratic developers, who are yet to be hired, will help famers "to apply for the development of a plan on their property."

Money via the Virginia Agricultural Cost Share program will fund "both the development and implementation of RMPs (Resource Management Plans) and the practices needed to complete one." Notice that the word "agricultural" has disappeared from the acronym RMPs.

Applicants are encouraged to contact their soil and water conservation districts or the DCR's website under "Soil and Water."

Why the duplication of services and the waste of money when Virginia already has expert advice for farmers via Cooperative Extension Offices and farmers already know how to protect their soil and water and how to be more efficient and profitable? Because it is about regulating farming, compliance with environmentalist demands, about control and tracking of the food supply, the water supply, and land use. It is another environmentally-driven encroachment of our lives.

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