RD494 - An Evaluation of Methods to Stabilize the Fluctuations in Funding for Agricultural Best Management Practices – November 2017

Executive Summary:

Item 364 R of the 2017 Acts of Assembly directed the Department of Conservation and Recreation (Department) to establish a Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) "to evaluate methods to stabilize the fluctuations in funding for Agricultural Best Management Practices".

During the first of three meetings, the Stakeholder Advisory Group discussed the stability of funding and adequacy of funding. While acknowledging the difference between stability and adequacy, the SAG adopted the following clarifying statement to focus future discussion and efforts: "provide the annual consistency by establishing a predictable funding source to adequately support operational need, technical assistance, and cost-share to Soil and Water Conservation Districts (Districts) for agricultural best management practices (BMPs) to meet the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)." With this statement in mind, the SAG offers the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Stabilize Funding for a Base-level Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share (VACS) Program at $35 Million Annually

Provide a minimum amount of $35 million annually to the VACS Program. Districts have demonstrated their ability to administer a VACS Program of this amount effectively and efficiently.

Recommendation 2: Utilize the Second Half of the Recordation Fee Revenue to Stabilize the Reserve Fund

Deposit the other half of the current $20 recordation fee established by the Appropriation Act into the Water Quality Improvement Fund Reserve Fund. While recordation revenues do fluctuate, the revenue would provide a continual, and potentially stabilizing, stream of monies for the Reserve Fund.

Recommendation 3: Provide Adequate Funding for District Administration, Operations, and Technical Assistance

Provide adequate funding for District administration, operations, and technical assistance. Merging the administration, operation, and technical assistance funding into one complete District base program should be examined as it would reduce the need to address the technical assistance funding as part of the WQIF deposit and would stabilize the funding for Districts. As programs are developed to assist Virginia in meeting its water quality goals, such as the Resource Management Plan Program, it is critical that the Districts receive adequate funding to fully implement these programs.