RICHMOND—Farmers from all over Virginia met with their state senators and delegates Jan. 25 during Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Legislative Day.
VFBF producer members shared their thoughts on legislative issues relevant to agriculture and explained why the organization has taken some of its specific stands.
"A lot of our elected officials don’t have an agricultural background," said Trey Davis, VFBF political education and legislative specialist. "That’s why it’s important for our leaders to educate them on bills that will adversely affect their farming operations."
Howard and Lucy Nester of Chesterfield County attended Legislative Day to represent farmers in that heavily populated county.
"Chesterfield is losing farmers and farmland, and unless legislators keep in touch with farmers, they don’t get the gist of what we have to deal with," Lucy Nester said.
Bob and Susan Threewitts of Rockingham County said they attend Legislative Day each year because if no farmers speak up, others will assume everything is OK.
"We can’t take that attitude," Bob Threewitts said. "We need to make sure our opinion is expressed and not assume the legislators understand. … We shouldn’t expect others to speak for us."
This year’s top Farm Bureau legislative issues include budget funding for water quality programs, farmland preservation and Virginia Cooperative Extension; proactive agricultural animal care standards; support of private property rights; and preventing wildlife damage to farms.
Farm Bureau is also urging the General Assembly not to give in to federal threats which would mandate farmers to implement conservation practices without appropriate cost-share funding.
"The current voluntary incentive-based program is already woefully underfunded at the state and federal levels," said Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations. "Farmers are committed to utilizing cost-share dollars when they are appropriated and matching those dollars with their own to install conservation practices that cost a few thousand dollars to more than $100,000."
Forcing farmers to adopt costly best management practices without funding "could threaten the long-term survival of many Virginia farms," Stoneman said.
Contact Davis at 804-290-1017 or Stoneman at 804-290-1024.