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Farmers prepare to discuss agricultural priorities with lawmakers Jan. 29 during annual Legislative Day
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Farmers prepare to discuss agricultural priorities with lawmakers Jan. 29 during annual Legislative Day

RICHMOND—With a 40% turnover of seats in the General Assembly, leaders within Virginia Farm Bureau Federation are embracing new opportunities to brief lawmakers on agricultural policy priorities at the organization’s annual Legislative Day, Jan. 29 at the Virginia Capitol.

Farm Bureau policy is originally developed at the county level and then debated and approved by a statewide body of voting delegates. For Legislative Day, members choose issues most relevant to agricultural activities in their regions of the state and share their perspectives with lawmakers who hold positions on related committees, like Appropriations or Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources.

With dozens of timely agricultural issues farmers can choose to discuss with their representatives, farmers are focusing on a few top priorities: a budget amendment enhancing conservation funding to hire more nutrient management planners and engineers to help meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals; and a bill limiting the proliferation of solar arrays on prime farm- and forestland.

Martha Moore, senior vice president of VFBF governmental relations, said farmers also will request that the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Office of Farmland Preservation be combined into a single entity within Virginia Department of Forestry’s Forestland Conservation department. While efforts to promote land conservation easements through state agencies have been effective, Farm Bureau members believe they can be further streamlined to include working farmland.

“There’s been lots of focus on conservation easements for open spaces and scenic vistas, but not so much for working lands,” Moore said. “We’ve got to have lands in the future that produce food and goods we rely on, and make sure easement restrictions allow farming to continue. So why not put all of that into one entity within the Department of Forestry? All we’re trying to do is consolidate it and reignite the focus.”

VFBF state board member and cattleman Justin Pence of Shenandoah County said Legislative Day has proven to be a useful tool for farmers to interact with legislators during a pivotal time of the General Assembly session. His family participates every year.

“It’s imperative for legislators to put a face with a name and relate real-life agriculture stories they heard directly from farmers,” Pence said, lauding Farm Bureau’s efforts to include urban legislators in agricultural discussions. “Remember—they’re all voting on the same issues whether they’re rural or living in a metropolis.”

Media: Contact Katelyn Jordan, VFBF governmental relations, at 804-290-1021.

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