Agriculture, forestry remain Virginia’s most robust industries

Published 6:52 pm Sunday, December 11, 2022

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While Virginia’s agriculture and forestry sectors were profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced that both industries have recovered lost ground and forged ahead.

A Virginia Farm Bureau news release noted that Youngkin reflected on the resilience of these sectors Nov. 30 in front of a delegation of 400-plus farmers at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in While Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

“Gov. Youngkin’s background has not been in agriculture, but he certainly understands the importance of what we do, and he supports your efforts across the commonwealth,” Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr said.

The governor quoted figures from a recently completed economic impact study from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. The research concluded in October and found that those industries’ contributions have grown from $91 billion in 2016 to $105 billion. Jobs increased too, with 12,000 people entering the ag and forestry workforces since then, creating a total of 490,000 jobs.

“Everyone in this room plays a vital role in ensuring that our agriculture and forestry industries remain strong and deliver the economic growth and development we depend upon that is arguably at the core of Virginia’s history,” Youngkin said. “Now how can we ensure these numbers will continue to grow as fast as they possibly can?”

He shared his administration’s top priorities ahead of the upcoming legislative session — becoming a world leader in controlled-environment agriculture; working with educational institutions to address workforce training needs; expansion of emerging businesses through the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund; reaching more international export markets; and rebranding Virginia Grown and Virginia’s Finest trademark programs.

To continue conservation practices, Youngkin promised farmers funding for sharing the cost of implementing agricultural best management practices like cover crops for soil health or livestock fencing along streams.

“It’s more funding than has been ever put forward in a program that is historically underfunded,” he said. “We have real challenges to reach (water quality) goals by year 2025, and I’m committed to increased funding in this budget. Bottom line — good conservation and soil health make good financial sense as well.”

While Youngkin’s administration can set these initiatives into motion, the rest is up to farmers.

“Virginia stands as a worldwide agriculture leader because of your hard work, dedication and drive to deliver the best products possible,” he said. “And as the one who gets to be Virginia’s biggest salesman, thank you for making my job easier.”