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West Virginia Provides Pollution Aid

May 23

Agriculture officials in West Virginia are offering financial aid to farmers who want to reduce their environmental effects. The state's Agricultural Commissioner has asked the legislature for more funding to help green farmers.

The funds will be used to assist farmers in developing and following nutrient management plan guidelines. Farmers can limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that leaches into water sources via farm runoff by properly regulating their fertilizer use.

The heated dispute over the Chesapeake Bay is largely to blame for the heightened environmentalist sentiment on West Virginia farms. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been pushing for years to tighten pollution regulations for Chesapeake streams in the hopes of reducing the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment that enters the bay.

Algae blooms can be caused by excess nutrients like nitrogen, which reduce oxygen levels and kill aquatic life.

West Virginia farmers whose land is part of the Chesapeake region (mainly farmers in West Virginia's eastern panhandle) are on a tight pollution diet under the EPA's new restrictions, which limit the amount of runoff that can be dumped into streams and rivers.

Currently, farm organizations are resisting these laws. The Farm Bureau, for example, has filed a lawsuit against the EPA to prevent the adoption of these new pollution regulations.

With this new source of financial aid, though, some farmers may be more willing to change their ways and avoid future penalties. But there are also West Virginian farmers who are trying to get agricultural loans to purchase new environmentally-friendly equipment, like no-till drills that minimize soil disturbance.

No-till farming is an agricultural technique that involves minimal disturbance of the soil. This means leaving last year's crop residue on the field and planting the new crop through it. This helps to prevent soil erosion and keeps nutrients in the ground.