VDOF is requesting a one-time investment of $290,000 to increase the agency’s tree seedling nursery capacity to begin to produce the millions of additional tree seedlings that are needed to meet Virginia’s commitments for riparian buffer establishment and other tree planting in the Chesapeake Bay WIPIII Plan. The goals established in the WIP represent a significant increase over historical planting levels. The trees that will need to be planted are native hardwood species that can grow to maturity in the soils and climate in Virginia. VDOF’s Augusta County nursery currently produces just over one-million hardwood seedlings each year. Growing the additional seedlings will require a one-time investment in new equipment. Once the new capacity is established the additional seedling production will be self-sustaining from then on.
We anticipate planting 1 million new hardwood seedlings in the fall of 2021 and additional 2-3 million in the fall of 2022 and beyond. This new equipment that is needed includes; a tractor, lifting machine, two seeders, spreader, sprayer, tiller and two rotovators.
Increasing VDOF nursery production is the most effective way to meet the looming demand for two reasons. First is that the native hardwood species, in the necessary quantities are not available currently in the marketplace and it is unlikely that the private marketplace would ramp up production in time to meet this demand in the five years before the WIP deadline of 2025. The trees utilized for these plantings are small, one- or two-year-old seedlings. There is little retail demand for these small seedlings, they are primarily used within the nursery trade to grow into larger trees for sale. Obtaining these seedlings from private nurseries would surely depend on nurseries from other parts of the country which increases the risk from imported pathogens or using trees that are not adapted to Virginia.
The second reason to increase VDOF nursery production is because VDOF has the existing infrastructure and can increase the supply quickly and at relatively low cost. It also makes sense for the state to invest in these trees because they will be used for water quality and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup thereby providing a public benefit. Much of the tree planting will be paid for with public funds under the direction of government agencies. In addition to the seedlings needed for the WIP, there is increasing interest in tree planting – such as the Healthy Watershed Project and the Trillion Trees Initiative – as means to address climate change by reducing atmospheric carbon. These efforts represent another significant increase in the need for native seedling production capacity and potential competition for Virginia’s seedling needs.
|Alternatives considered (must list at least one)|
If this request is not funded we will be forced to use current balances in the agencies nursery fund. These are balances built up from the current sale of trees from both nurseries. These funds are currently used for cash flow in the early part of the growing season before the trees are harvested and as a cushion against factors out of our control such as weather and tree disease. Additionally, we use these funds to repair and purchase the equipment we currently use at the nurseries.
Using these balances for this purpose will put our nursery operation at a higher degree of risk and make us more vulnerable to severe weather events, equipment failures or other events out of our control. This year, COVID-19 presents an additional risk to nursery operations since we rely on contract labor for seedling lifting and grading and additional precautions will limit and could halt production.
|Explanations and Methodologies|
$90,000 1 tractor;
$25,000 1 lifting machine;
$50,000 1 precision seeder;
$30,000 1 hardwood seeder;
$40,000 1 mulch spreader;
$10,000 1 sprayer;
$25,000 1 tiller;
$20,000 2 rotavators