RD67 - Review of the Practice of Retiring Agricultural Land for the Generation of Nutrient Credits – December 2021

Executive Summary:

Item 377 O in 2021 Special Session I Va. Acts Ch. 552 directed the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in consultation with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Department of Forestry to convene a workgroup to review the practice of retiring agricultural land for the generation of nutrient credits. The workgroup met on November 1, 2021 and following introductions and an overview of the nonpoint source nutrient banking program was asked to discuss three specific questions:

1. “Does the practice of retiring agricultural land for the generation of nutrient credits have an impact on agricultural sustainability, farmland retention, farmland preservation, or functions of the nutrient exchange in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and its sub-watersheds?"

2. “If the establishment of nutrient banks has an impact on farmland retention/availability, what recommendations do you suggest regarding how the nutrient credit trading regulations and/or underlying statutory authority should be changed to help reduce the loss of prime farmland?"

3. “In situations where land is converted to forestland to generate nutrient credits, what protections are in the nutrient credit trading regulation to ensure the forestland is managed under a forestry plan and/or noxious weeds or invasive species are controlled."

This report summarizes the workgroup’s process and discussions.