Successes

Supporting Virginia Agriculture

An 85% or better success rate on the number of policy issues achieved is possible with the Farm Bureau team approach. Our positions are well thought out and debated as the issue works it way from the local level to the state level. When Farm Bureau takes a position, it is supported by farmers from across the Commonwealth. It is not a small group of people making these decisions on our policy positions but a democratic process involving engaging members. Farm Bureau has a professional staff keeping farmers informed on the issues they may be confronting, representing their positions on a daily basis before legislative, government agencies or to other groups and garnering the support needed to implement the issue position.

Farm Bureau represents all types of farmers producing every type of commodity operating all different sizes of farms and agri-businesses. We have included some overall successes as well as issue position successes by commodity category.

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Virginia Farm Bureau works to make sure the voice of agriculture is heard at the General Assembly and in Congress. But we can’t do it alone.

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Current Successes

Passage of a constitutional amendment that protects landowners from eminent domain abuse; ensures that government can’t give private lands to another private entity; and provide for fair reimbursement

Passage of other eminent domain reforms at the state level to give landowners a more balanced set of rules in the court system when facing condemnation

Defeat of the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act that unfairly blamed farmers and overestimated their impact on the Chesapeake Bay

Supported and achieved increasing funding amounts for agriculture best management practices cost share program to fund conservation practices on farms

Supported funding and opposed elimination of the state meat inspection program

Supported state funding for 100% match of industry tax to support the Reforestation of Timberlands Program

Supported maintaining a Weights and Measures Inspection program without fees to farmers

Supported funding for Farmland Preservation programs targeted at working farms

Defeated legislation extending the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area east of I-95 to the remaining portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Opposed legislation giving rights to animals through various laws

Established state permitting system for application of biosolids and opposed bans on the use of these recycled nutrients on farmland

4h

Farm Bureau supports 4-H locally, state and nationally.

At the local level, county Farm Bureaus work with their local 4-H clubs and programs to help fill gaps whether it be financially or through access to hands-on learning opportunities. Such activities may include but are not limited to sponsoring student’s livestock projects in preparation of the show or after the show by purchasing the animal to help the student understand business side of raising livestock, provide student scholarships, invite students to give updates or presentations on their projects to keep the local farm community updated and/or give the students’ experience in preparation for local, regional or state contests, provide access to livestock, equipment or other farm experiences to enhance experiential learning opportunities.

At the state level, Farm Bureau supports state 4-H programs financially, with advocacy for positions at the state and local level that provide support for 4-H programs and opportunities for students to participate in skills based contests that recognized their leadership and interests in agriculture. An example of our financial support is our long term support of the state 4-H Show. An example of or state policy advocacy is supporting funding to have key positions such as 4-H in every locality or shared among localities. An example of opportunities for students to participate in skills based contests includes essay and young agriculturist contests which gives students the ability to practice their speaking skills to promote agriculture.

At the national level, American Farm Bureau supports 4-H through similar financial and advocacy on federal policies governing youth educational experiential programs and funding for Cooperative Extension.

Aquaculture

Farm Bureau established a statewide advisory committee in 1990 which meets twice a year to discuss issues important to the aquaculture industry, both saltwater and freshwater. The meetings provide a forum for both producers and industry representatives to interact, develop policies and support programs and projects that benefit Aquafarmers across the state.

Farm Bureau interacts closely with the gubernatorial-appointed Aquaculture Advisory Board, including regular joint meetings with the Farm Bureau advisory committee and often organizing tours of aquaculture facilities and operations around the state for board and advisory committee members.

Farm Bureau has worked to ensure aquaculture be recognized as agriculture at both state and federal level.

Farm Bureau has worked to ensure freshwater aquaculture producers are not unfairly impacted by regulations concerning their use of water and that sound scientific principles be followed in the development of such regulations.

Farm Bureau has supported the work of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech and advocates to ensure they receive adequate funding for aquaculture related research and outreach.

Farm Bureau partners with VDACS on many aquaculture-related activities, including the development of new and expanded markets for Virginia aquaculture products.

Farm Bureau was a lead organizer of the first Virginia Aquaculture Conference held in 1994 and has actively supported and helped plan the 2015 Virginia Aquaculture Conference along with others that have been held every two years since 2007.

Farm Bureau has participated in value-added activities assisting aquaculture farmers with identifying new markets for their products.

Cooperative Extension

One of the reasons that Farm Bureau was created was to be a coordinating advocate for helping to bring practical nature of research from land grant universities directly to communities through Cooperative Extension.

Virginia Farm Bureau and county Farm Bureaus continue to advocate for every locality to have local and state funding to support local Extension offices.

County Farm Bureaus partner with local extension agents on carrying out informational and experiential learning opportunities for farmers and the community.

At the state level, Farm Bureau partners with extension specialists and the program leaders to ensure that programming and translational information adequately provide support in sustaining and growing family farms and agriculture operations.

Cotton

In response to a resurgence of cotton acreage in southeast Virginia, a Farm Bureau Cotton Advisory Committee was appointed in 1992 to provide producers a means to recommend policies to benefit the cotton industry.

In 1996 Farm Bureau was directly involved in the formation of the Virginia Cotton Growers Association (VCGA) and the Virginia Boll Weevil Eradication Program. Farm Bureau staff have served as secretary/treasurer of the association since that time.

Farm Bureau leadership and staff, working with the VCGA and other partners, succeeded in getting language in the 2008 Farm Bill which provided Virginia with a seat on the Cotton Board (previously Virginia had always been grouped with the “North Carolina Unit” for these purposes). With designation as a “cotton producing state” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2008, Virginia also gained a state specific seat on the Cotton Incorporated Board.

Farm Bureau successfully fostered legislation supported by cotton producers at the state level that implemented a state specific “cotton checkoff” in 1997 to provide funding for state research, promotion and education on cotton.

Farm Bureau represents Virginia cotton producers with national and regional cotton organizations such as the national Cotton Council and the Southern Cotton Growers.

Working with the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and Virginia Cooperative Extension, Farm Bureau organizes the annual Virginia Cotton Meeting every winter which offers speakers on economics, farm policy and production-related issues.

Dairy

Farm Bureau helped restore 2014 monies assessed from the Virginia State Milk Commission by the Department of Planning and Budget.

Farm Bureau has been a long-term supporter of the Virginia State Milk Commission (VSMC).

Farm Bureau successfully negotiated the merger of VSMC into the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

Farm Bureau successfully maintained the VSMC administrator position as a gubernatorial appointment.

Farm Bureau Hosted and co-hosted numerous dairy economic summits in 2007-2009 to help dairymen protect their financial viability during an historic downturn in milk prices.

Farm Bureau successfully brought the dairy industry together and secured state legislation authorizing the Southern Dairy Compact.

Farm Bureau successfully fought out-of-state efforts to force all Virginia localities under federal milk marketing order jurisdiction.

Farm Bureau developed consensus with the Department of Environmental Quality and other stakeholders on a permitting program that protects the environment and water quality while minimizing costly regulation on livestock farmers.

Farm Bureau is a perennial supporter of June Dairy Month and other dairy product promotion.

Farm Bureau is a perennial defender of Virginia’s prohibition on unpasteurized milk and dairy product sales.

Farm Bureau advocated for extended truck weights and load widths for agriculture trucks during declared disasters (feed, hay, manure, etc)

Farm Bureau assists dairy farms developing value-added enterprises such as farmstead cheese, milk, ice cream and yogurt through the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability (VA FAIRS) which offers technical assistance in the form of feasibility studies and business plans to new and current farmers looking to add value to their production.

Equine

Farm Bureau has continued to lead the fights to maintain that horse are recognized as livestock.

Farm Bureau has fought attempts by animal rights groups to further regulate equine beyond following basic established scientific animal husbandry practices as defined in law.

Farm Bureau has supported legislation that raised the cap on monetary award for fair market value of livestock from $400 to $750 if livestock has been killed by dogs or hybrid canines provided certain procedures are followed.

Farm Bureau fought to preserve the check-off program funds that benefit the equine industry-based on the equine industry’s original established guidelines.

Farm Bureau is fighting for improved equine, livestock and poultry facilities at Virginia Tech since those facilities are crumbling and have existed beyond their usefulness to accommodate a growing equine program.

Farm Bureau is actively serving on the State Animal Response Team to monitor disease and other disasters that may impact the equine industry and develop appropriate coordinated responses to such threats.

Farm Bureau has consistently provided sponsorship for programs such as the Virginia 4-H Horse Show and Virginia Horse Council Legislative Trail Ride.

Farm Bureau helped to establish the Virginia Horse Festival at Meadow Event Park in spring.

Farm Bureau provides support for Meadow Event Park through providing facilities for equine shows and events.

FFA

Farm Bureau supports FFA locally, state and nationally.

At the local level, county Farm Bureaus work with their local FFA Chapter to help fill in gaps whether it be financial or through access to hands-on learning opportunities. Such activities may include but are not limited to sponsoring student’s livestock projects in preparation of the show or after the show by purchasing the animal to help the student understand business side of raising livestock, provide student scholarships, invite students to give updates or presentations on their projects to keep the local farm community updated and/or give the students’ experience in preparation for local, regional or state contests, provide access to livestock, equipment or other farm experiences to enhance experiential learning opportunities.

At the state level, Farm Bureau supports Virginia FFA financially, with advocacy for state educational policies that support the curriculum and program requirements, and through mentorship and involvement with our leadership building activities. An example of our financial support, we sponsored the state proficiency awards for students. An example of our educational policy advocacy is spearheading the effort to have key support positions at Virginia Tech and Department of Education filled after vacancies or retirements. An example of our involvement in supporting leadership building activities is the interaction and training provided to state FFA officers in conjunction our Young Farmer meetings.

At the national level, American Farm Bureau supports National FFA through similar financial and advocacy on federal educational policies that support curriculum and program financing from Perkins funding.

Forestry

Farm Bureau advocated for Overweight Truck Permit for Forest Products.

Farm Bureau supported updating of the guidelines for the Reforestation of Timberland Program.

Farm Bureau supported expanded funding of the Department of Forestry and their firefighting program.

Farm Bureau works to reduce timber trespass and theft through landowner education programs.

Farm Bureau consistently advocates for funding for Reforestation of Timberland Program.

Horticulture

Farm Bureau advocated for funding for the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) Beehive Grant Program.

Farm Bureau supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Competitive Grant Program in Virginia and at the federal level.

Farm Bureau supports VDACS Office of Plant Industry Services programs including fire ant control and prevention, apiary inspection, plant pathology and others.

Local Food

Farm Bureau created the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability (VA FAIRS) which offers technical assistance in the form of feasibility studies and business plans to new and current farmers looking to add value to their production. Most of these clients would be “small” farmers and VA FAIRS has successfully assisted in garnering over $5 million dollars in grant funds to assist multiple projects across the state in the last few years.

Farm Bureau routinely assists with facilitation, coordination and planning of conferences and forums on local foods, value-added agriculture and farm diversification and regularly hosts and/or sponsors such events.

Farm Bureau has been a long-standing member of the state Virginia Farm-to-School Coalition and participated in the creation of the Virginia Farm-to-Table publication.

Farm Bureau created state advisory committees to directly address issues impacting small fruit and vegetable growers and emerging trends in agriculture production and marketing.

Farm Bureau regularly attends regional and national meetings on small farming, agriculture diversification and value-added agriculture to keep up with what is going on around the nation and often presents at such events.

Farm Bureau is a founding member of the Virginia Food System Council whose overarching goal is to bring together multiple representatives of the state’s food system, including nutrition and the food needy, to create a more vibrant state food system that will benefit all involved, nutritionally and economically.

Over the past several years, Farm Bureau has worked in partnership with, and continues to, Virginia State University, Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services in program development along these lines.

Tobacco

Farm Bureau helped secure the master settlement agreement funding for tobacco dependent communities via the VA Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.

Farm Bureau helped secure indemnification for tobacco growers and former quota holders via the MSA & Tobacco Commission.

Farm Bureau helped indemnify quota holders and tobacco producers with the Tobacco Transition Payment Program for transitioning to a free market system and for lost equity associated with federal tobacco quota program termination.

Farm Bureau helped secured VA Income Tax deductions for income received as the result of payments from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, the National Tobacco grower Settlement Trust and the Tobacco Loss Assistance Program.

Farm Bureau promotes Virginia tobacco for export by hosting foreign delegations for tours and meetings with Virginia leaf growers.

Farm Bureau supports continued state funding of tobacco research and extension at VA Tech and Agricultural Research and Extension Centers.

Farm Bureau helped save the final Tobacco Transition Payment Program payment from sequestration.

Wineries, Breweries & Cideries

Farm Bureau supported legislation creating the current Virginia Wine Board.

Farm Bureau supported the Virginia Farm Wineries and Vineyards Tax Credit.

Farm Bureau supported establishment of the Virginia Winery Distribution Company, a non-profit, non-stock corporation that provides wholesale wine distribution services for Virginia farm wineries.

Farm Bureau supported legislation preventing local zoning ordinances from discriminating against farm wineries and other farms that incorporate agri-tourism into their farming operations.

Farm Bureau supported the Virginia Farm Winery Act and continues to support retaining all specified privileges within the Act including self-distribution and the use of five remote licenses.

Farm Bureau helped pass the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund which allows producers to work with localities in a grant program for value-added enterprises, including wineries, breweries, and distilleries.

Farm Bureau worked on legislation that created a new zoning Code section in state law to allow protected from local governments as they relate to agritourism activities on farms.

As a member of Farm Bureau, you have the opportunity to work with VAFairs, an in-house Cooperative Development Center offering assistance to individuals, agricultural cooperatives, small businesses and other similar entities in rural areas to enable and assist cooperative and business development.

Over the past few years VAFAIRS has provided technical assistance including grant application assistance for multiple wineries, breweries, and distilleries, as well as cideries and maltsters. These efforts have resulted in more than $750,000 in grants for these clients.

Farm Bureau has a dynamic Commodity/Marketing staff that works with producers in helping identify economic opportunities for these businesses. The Emerging Ag Enterprises Advisory Committee and the Wine/Grape Advisory Committee regularly meet and look at issues impacting the industry.

Farm Bureau worked to help establish an $800,000 Southern Virginia Vineyard Development and Expansion Grant available through the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to promote new and expanded wine grape acreage in Southside Virginia. The majority of the project budget, $716,000, is earmarked for cost-share payments benefiting new producers and existing vineyards and providing an incentive for 238 new and expanded acres. A survey by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation resulted in expressed interest from more than 70 individuals in establishing vineyards. A Virginia Viticulture Association survey found nearly all of the 32 vineyards in Southside were interested in participating.