New year, new stories from the past month (plus!). When I’m working on a story, it’s always in the back of my thoughts, no matter what I’m doing—but once it’s done, it’s vanishes from the dashboard of my mind. Or at least that’s the excuse I can offer for being terrible at updating this blog.
First, here’s a story on a nonnative red alga (essentially a seaweed) that originated in Asia but has been increasingly filling the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. But wait, there’s a twist! It turns out that this alga, christened Gracilaria vermiculophylla and now possibly on the cusp of being renamed Agarophyton vermiculophyllum, may actually have some benefits for the Bay, including helping the blue crab population rebound by offering vulnerable juveniles a protective and nutritious environment. Read on in Chesapeake Bay Journal for the full picture.
And, on the other side of the state—but still wrapped up in Bay restoration efforts—farmers in the Shenandoah Valley are getting grant funds to promote rotational grazing, a practice promoted by conservationists to reduce erosion, and by some farmers as a more efficient use of land. My story for the Virginia Mercury breaks down why this agricultural technique is being supported by state and federal funding.
And finally, amid all the chaos in Richmond with the executive branch over the past week, the General Assembly has actually been quite busy. One of the issues the legislature has been considering is loosening restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp in the commonwealth. This move is in reaction to the 2018 federal farm bill, which did the same thing on a nationwide level, freeing up the states to follow in its footsteps. Right now, Virginia’s primary legislation on this issue, Del. Marshall’s (R-Danville) bill, has passed the House (on a 99–0 vote) and has moved into committee in the Virginia Senate. At this point, I’d say there’s little doubt that it will pass and a new era of hemp cultivation in the commonwealth will dawn.