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Beautiful summer evening showcases ugly budget shortfall

MAIDENS—The soft light of sunset and a warm summer evening on Sept. 10 were a direct contradiction of a harsh truth.

The Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District, which oversees conservation programs and related funding for Goochland and Powhatan counties, is facing a $38,000 budget shortfall. And as local budgets around the state continue to be stretched, other soil and water conservation districts are also struggling.

That was a key message at a farm tour and picnic hosted by the Friends of the Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District at the Loch Lomond Farm in Goochland County. The Duke family, who operate the farm, showed how funding and technical advice from the conservation experts at the Monacan District helped them fence their 50 head of cattle out of local streams and provide more efficient rotation of the animals through pastures. Speakers like Keith Burgess, district manager, explained the money to continue helping protect regional water quality is running out fast.

“We’ve got some reserves, but we only have a couple of years left” to run the district’s $183,000 budget without any income from Powhatan County, Burgess told the audience. Powhatan supervisors voted to cut all local funding for the district for the 2013 budget year.

“We all know we’re going through tough times, and budgets need to be looked at. We need your support to continue providing programs” like technical assistance to farmers and landowners, Burgess said.

Having local conservation staff and experts is essential to the effectiveness of conservation cost-share dollars and programs, said Robert Harper, a Goochland county cattle producer. “They’re really advisors and consultants to us, whether we’re thinking of putting a new fence line in, or what kind of fencing and where we should put it, or what kind of (cattle) waterers we should use.”

Wayne F. Pryor, a Goochland County beef and grain producer and president of the Virginia Farm Bureau, also attended the event. “While we were having this program there were some cows in the background, drinking water,” Pryor said. “And I couldn’t help but think about that and about how as I was driving to this beautiful farm, I passed about 50 houses. They’re all downstream from this farm. So everything done on this farm has an effect on each and every one of those houses.”

Local financial support for soil and water conservation districts is “not about just the farmer. It’s about the community, it’s about the county and the beautiful state we all live in,” Pryor said.

Media: Contact Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.
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