Virginia legislators treat ag industry well
PAINTER, Va. — Despite a legislative session mired in controversy, Virginia’s agriculture industry fared well, a trade group representative told Eastern Shore of Virginia farmers.
“We actually had a very good session,” said Kyle Shreve, executive director of the Virginia Agribusiness Council at March 21 gathering at Virginia Tech’s Eastern Shore Agriculture Research and Education Center. “There were some very good things that happened.”
Shreve cited positive funding for Virginia’s water quality improvement fund, broadband expansion, poultry litter transport and four additional Extension agents positions.
For the 2020 fiscal year, $74 million was marked for improving water quality, funding that Shreve called “incredibly important” as Virginia enters phase three of the Watershed Improvement Plan for the Chesapeake Bay.
“That’s going to change the target levels of what we’re expected to meet in the agricultural industry and the more funding we can get and the more approval we can get and the more voluntary BMPs we can put on the ground, the better it’s going to be in the long run on our terms,” Shreve said. “Getting the commonwealth to pay for some of that is incredibly important.”
The legislature approved $20 million to expand broadband internet access and $750,000 in funding for poultry litter transport, Shreve added.
Shreve noted two bills related to groundwater withdrawals were sponsored. One proposed restrictions on which aquifers could be withdrawn from for certain purposes and another, from Eastern Shore Sen. Lynwood Lewis, established incentives for withdrawals from certain aquifers.
The first bill was defeated and Lewis’ bill was approved unanimously.
“That’s exactly the type of thing we try to encourage to make it a more market based approach where people want to do the right thing but allowing for certain situations depending on the operation you have,” Shreve said.
A bill that puts Virginia in compliance with new federal rules on hemp production passed. The measure paves the way for commercial production whereas before, growing hemp could only be part of research. Shreve said there’s already a waitlist of growers seeking permits to grow the crop.
“Interest is blowing up,” he said. “Now we’ve got to iron out the details to keep Virginia from falling behind.”
Agriculture advocates were also effective in defeating bills that sought to ban certain crop protection products, particularly chlorpyrifos and treatment for Fall Cankerworm, said Beck Stanley, the agribusiness council’s director of government affairs.
Though the chlorpyrifos bill was stopped this year, Stanley said he expects it to come up again next year.
“It’s something we’re going to keep a close eye on and keep fighting,” he said.
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