RICHMOND—Expanding the resources available for farmers to improve their environmental practices tops the list of legislative priorities for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation this year.
More than 150 Farm Bureau members will be meeting with their legislators Feb. 22 and 23 to discuss several of that organization’s priorities for the 2008 General Assembly. The theme for this year’s visit is “Uncover Agriculture.”
Farm Bureau is part of a coalition of agricultural organizations and conservation groups, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, that are asking the state to set aside $100 million a year over the next 10 years for a cost-share program that assists farmers who install best-management practices on their land. The alliance was forged last summer, when the groups involved realized they shared a common goal.
“We sat across the table from them and affirmed that we all want to protect water quality,” said Martha Moore, VFBF director of governmental relations. “But in order for farmers to implement agricultural best management practices, they need help with resources.”
Gov. Tim Kaine recommended expanding BMP cost-share funds for farmers to $20 million a year in his 2008-2010 budget, but the coalition members say additional funding is needed. They point out that $700 million has been set aside to improve sewage treatment plants in recent years, but relatively little money has been budgeted to help reduce non-point source pollution like runoff from developed land and farms.
Other legislative priorities for farmers this year include continued state funding for the state’s farmland preservation program, including matching funds for localities that are purchasing landowners’ development rights. Farm Bureau also will be working with like-minded groups to seek a Virginia constitutional amendment to reform state eminent domain laws, Moore said. Farm Bureau supports full funding for Virginia’s Agricultural Research and Extension Centers, and members oppose unscientific laws and regulations pertaining to the care of livestock and poultry.
Contact Moore at 804-290-1013 or Norm Hyde, VFBF video producer, 804-290-1146.