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VT offers free help for small farms with advice on NM issues
By JANE W. GRAHAM
BLACKSBURG, Va. (Oct. 4, 2016) — Virginia Tech has hired a new nutrient management specialist to help small farmers with developing nutrient management plans for their farms or tweaking the ones they have established in the past.
Tad Williams has joined the Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences Department of the university and is working from Verona in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.
Williams stressed in a telephone interview that his services are free to the farmers.
Participation in the program is voluntary, for now, he said.
He indicated there is a possibility the nutrient management plans could become required by the state but this has not happened.
Williams is focusing on small unpermitted dairies for the most part.
He said this outreach is to dairy farms that have from 50 to 175 cows in their herds. He is also available to small operations raising beef.
He repeatedly stressed that voluntary participation is a key part of this program.
He is available to assist the farmers in customizing a Nutrient Management Plan to fit individual farms and meet soil and yield goals.
Nutrient management plans are part of the efforts being made to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay.
Williams said he recently visited with a farmer who had developed a nutrient management plant in the past as part of a cost-share project but who felt a need to update it.
“Currently, Virginia is working to meet its 60 percent reduction goals for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment by 2017 set by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed implementation Plan,’ The Virginia Dairyman, recently reported.
“Nitrogen and sediment reductions have not been met for 2017 and are being reduced at very slow rates and are not falling in line with Chesapeake Bay reduction projections,” the magazine added. “Phosphorus reductions are closer to their target but still have not met the 60 percent reduction goal needed by 2017.”
Failure of voluntary Best Management Practices could result in mandatory BMPs, the Environmental Protection Agency has indicated.
The EPA is aiming for 95 percent voluntary participation in the Bay watershed by 2025, Williams noted.
His efforts will help the farmers and the state formalize what they are doing and give the state a way to fully account for the BMP practices results in reducing the Chesapeake Bay Minimum Daily Load.
Williams brings a farm background to his new job with Virginia Tech.
He grew up on his family’s beef cattle farm in Rockingham County, Va.
He earned a B.A. from Eastern Mennonite University and M.P.P. from American University.
He is a member of the Shenandoah Valley Beef Cooperative and serves on its board of directors.
Williams is the second nutrient management specialist working in the state.
Tammy Holler serves in Eastern Virginia.
Her focus is on small ruminants such as sheep and goats and horticulture, Williams noted.