Fifth generation Shenandoah Valley farmer and former Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Matt Lohr was tapped by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue Monday to head up the agency’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
“Matt has committed his entire life to the betterment of agriculture,” Perdue said in a release announcing the appointment. “The knowledge and experience he brings to the table will help ensure our locally-led, science-based approach continues to offer farmers the conservation solutions needed to enhance their environment and commercial viability.”
Lohr owns and operates Valley Pike Farm, Inc. in the Shenandoah Valley. He previously was a member of Virginia’s House of Delegates and served as Knowledge Center Director for Farm Credit of the Virginias. He has farmed full-time since 2017. His operation includes poultry, beef cattle, row crops and sweet corn, according to USDA.
The announcement was cheered by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD).
“NACD welcomes this long anticipated announcement,” NACD President Brent Van Dyke said in a release. “In addition to being raised on a farm, Matt Lohr has proven his commitment to agriculture and conservation through his nearly 30 years in leadership capacities. NRCS is a crucial partner in the federal, state and local government conservation partnership, and I applaud USDA for its diligence in appointing a strong leader.”
Lohr was recently featured on Farm Journal’s Farming the Countryside podcast where he shared with host Andrew McCrea his family’s commitment to conservation practices.
“We haven’t seen a plow go across our fields in probably the last 20 years,” Lohr told McCrea. “Everything we do here is no-till now.”
Lohr farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed where nutrient concerns have driven conservation efforts across the area.
“We're really ahead of the curve, as far as on a national level, of environmental practices for our animal livestock operations and poultry,” Lohr explained. “So we have nutrient management plans that are phosphorus based, and we're really limited to the amount of poultry litter we can apply on our fields. And we've really been very progressive as a valley and really as a state on planting cover crops in the fall. Of course most farmers I know have gone to all no-till crop rotation. So we've been very, very progressive as far as being able to protect the land.”
Listen to Lohr’s full interview on Farming the Countryside in the player below: