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State grants available for water quality improvement projects

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, has grant funds available for on-farm capital improvement projects that have a positive impact on water quality. Eligible farmers can apply for a Water Quality Grant, which provides $5,000 to $40,000 in funding. Matching funds are required and may include federal or state grants as well as cash, loans, or labor. Application deadlines are Nov. 8, 2019, and February 7, 2020.
Water Quality Grants help farmers make water quality-related capital improvements that enhance manure management and soil health, reduce runoff, and ultimately support the long-term success of farm enterprises. The grants assist with the costs of improvements required to comply with new regulations and are designed to complement existing federal and state grant programs. These grants are funded by the State of Vermont through Vermont’s Capital Construction and State Bonding Act.
James Jones and his daughter Nicole own and operate Jones Farm in Craftsbury. In 2017, they were awarded a Water Quality Grant to upgrade the manure storage for their heifer barn. The new covered hoop house structure with a cement-padded barnyard prevents nutrient loss to the ground and nearby waterways while greatly improving the quality of the farm’s manure.
James explained how this new infrastructure has benefitted his bottom line while protecting water quality: “There is more manure going where we want, which prevents groundwater leaching and saves on commercial fertilizer costs. Storage also allows us to be more strategic with timing our spreading.” James said, “It’s more than just manure storage — the hoop house has improved our cow handling, which is much more efficient for us now. It’s been a huge savings in labor and the coverage has improved the quality of the manure.” To further support this increased efficiency and stewardship, James is working with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service to implement a guiding fence and a tree line near the barnyard.
Viability Program grants help farmers leverage loan funds for projects or implement changes more quickly and effectively. Past projects funded with Water Quality Grants have included manure storage and management systems, barn and barnyard improvements, grazing infrastructure, wastewater management, no-till equipment, and more.
 More information, eligibility requirements, and applications are available on the Viability Program website at vhcb.org/viability.

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