USDA Announces $260K for Va. Oyster Farms on Private Ground

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Oyster farmers in the Virginia section of the Bay can now apply for $260,000 in funding to grow the bivalves on private grounds.

It's part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The goal is to help restore oyster beds on private shellfish grounds—and create habitat for oysters, fish and other wildlife, clean the water and strengthen the oyster industry.

USDA has been partnering with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) for six years, and this expansion will put $776,284 towards restoring 40 acres of privately leased oyster beds.

Producers who receive services from the Accomac, Chesapeake, Gloucester, Quinton, Smithfield, Tappahannock, and Warsaw NRCS Service Centers may be eligible to participate in the project.

“VMRC has helped restore thousands of acres of public oyster beds by planting new shells and implementing harvest and maintenance strategies to minimize disease impacts,” says Andrew Button, Department Head Conservation and Replenishment for VMRC. “This project is designed to transfer that knowledge to farmers with private leases and achieve long-lasting benefits that extend well beyond the life of the lease.”

VIMS will help Virginia oyster farmers find the best sites and shell sources for growing oyster on their leases.

The agencies say that working as a team will give growers more funds and technical help to produce in areas that have been fallow for years.

Interested oyster growers must submit a signed VMRC pre-approval form and complete an application with NRCS by November 17, 2017 to be considered for FY18 funding.

-Meg Walburn Viviano

Bay Bulletin