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Farm Bureau credits legislative successes to its members

RICHMOND—Among Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s accomplishments at this year’s General Assembly were protecting Virginia’s waterways and continuing to preserve farmland.

“Because farmers got involved and contacted their legislators, we were able to preserve money for agricultural practices that help protect water quality, and also for programs that help preserve our rapidly shrinking farmland,” said Martha Moore, VFBF director of governmental relations.

For the past two years, Farm Bureau has worked with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and eight other agriculture and conservation groups to convince legislators of the importance of funding agricultural best management practices, or BMPs. The groups were successful in preserving $20 million in the state’s budget for farmers to participate in the state’s Agricultural BMP Cost Share Program. Cost-share money enables farmers to reduce pollution in the state’s rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

Farmers who participate in the program split the cost of implementing conservation practices with the state, with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts administering the funds and providing technical assistance.

Other General Assembly achievements included farmland preservation, which is more critical than ever. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, Virginia lost 521,000 acres of farmland between 2002 and 2007.

“There are a number of tools in the toolbox to help preserve farmland, and Farm Bureau lobbied for many different pieces of legislation to protect working farms,” said Lindsay Reames, VFBF assistant director of governmental relations.

Farm Bureau worked to secure the remaining $500,000 in matching purchase of development rights funding for localities to preserve farmland. Under local purchase of development rights, or PDR, programs, farmers and other landowners agree not to develop their land and receive compensation based on its market value. The practice allows them to keep farms in production and helps localities manage growth.

Farm Bureau also supported a bill that re-vamped a transfer of development rights, or TDR, program created in 2006, making the process more useable for property owners and local governments.

Other concerns Farm Bureau addressed this year included a constitutional amendment to better define “public use” with regard to eminent domain. Farm Bureau helped to pass legislation in 2007 that specifically provided that property can be taken only when the public interest dominates the private gain.

While the constitutional amendment didn’t pass, Farm Bureau received support from legislators all across the state and will continue to keep eminent domain reform as a priority issue.

Due to a shortage of large animal veterinarians in Virginia, Farm Bureau also helped pass legislation that will study the problem and propose suggestions at the 2010 General Assembly. The study will be conducted by the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Contact Moore at 804-290-1013 or Reames at 804-290-1019.

 

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