Agriculture and forestry are Virginia’s 1st and 3rd largest industries, respectively, and they support many other industries. They are extremely important as job-creators and in sustaining local communities. They are also crucial to having affordable, accessible and safe food supply in an ever-changing economy. Dave has worked hard on efforts to protect agricultural land from development and environmentalists.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality adopted a post-construction water quality and quantity program requiring everything built after July 1, 2014, be nutrient neutral. Nutrient / phosphorous credits can be purchased and point sources and municipal systems can “true up” on an annual basis and buy term credits. However, to make the “math work” on new development, only permanent credits can be purchased, which cannot be renewed year after year. Rules require that the credits must be purchased within the eight-digit hydrologic unit or an adjacent eight-digit hydrologic unit hub. Clarke County is adjacent to five out of seven of the Potomac River hubs, so, developments in those areas can buy nutrient credits in Clarke. The program specifically seeks agricultural property to remove from production and, typically, trees are planted and maintained in perpetuity. Additional research is necessary to determine the unintended consequence of permanent removal of agricultural production on areas identified as important farmland soils by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).
At Clarke County's request, Dave introduced legislation to require that credits would be available only from within the HUC unit that credits are needed and not from adjacent HUC units. This would prevent further significant loss of farmland in Clarke County, and other localities in the Commonwealth.
Dave LaRock's agriculture legislation: