Farm Bureau producer members across Virginia are gearing up to discuss critical issues with state legislators in order to bring them up to speed for the 2015 Virginia General Assembly.
The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation has organized regional meetings for farmers and their state senators and delegates in November and December.
“The idea is to take our grassroots-determined policies and get them out in front of the legislators prior to the upcoming General Assembly,” said Martha Moore, VFBF vice president of governmental relations. “We want to brief them on the issues that affect Virginia farmers and give them the necessary background they need to make good decisions when they have to vote on these issues.”
Farm Bureau representatives will meet with legislators again in January during the annual VFBF Legislative Day.
Urging lawmakers to adequately fund Virginia’s Agriculture Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program is among Farm Bureau’s top six pre-session critical issues. Funds for the BMP program help farmers voluntarily meet Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay watershed implementation plan goals in order to avoid mandatory requirements. The funding also helps soil and water conservation districts assist farmers in developing management plans that protect the environment.
The state’s largest farm organization also is asking legislators to maintain state oversight and regulation of the application of bio-solids and similar products as a source of nutrients on farmland.
“Farmers need nutrients on their farmland to help their crops and pastureland to grow and thrive. Bio-solids are the ultimate use of a recycled product that helps provide those nutrients for crops and pasture,” Moore said.
In addition, members are asking legislators not to pass laws that would change or weaken the state’s Right to Farm Act. “While this law is over 30 years old, it still provides valuable legal protection to production agriculture from nuisance suits, and a level playing field regarding restrictive ordinances,” Moore explained.
Farmers will also remind legislators of the importance of laws to help incentivize farmland preservation for future generations. Programs such as the land preservation tax credit and the Office of Farmland Preservation’s purchase of development rights grant program are examples of tools that help to keep working farmland from being developed.
While the commonwealth is going through tough budget times, Farm Bureau is emphasizing the value of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services weights and measures program in helping ensure that consumers receive the products they pay for, that businesses compete fairly and that state government provides the appropriate oversight. “Farmers, especially those who raise livestock, rely on this state oversight in some of their domestic marketing agreements,” Moore said. “This is one instance where it’s important to remind legislators of the value of programs that have been a part of government since Colonial times.”
“All of these issues affect our farmers one way or another, and it’s important that we get the word out to our legislators and help garner their support,” Moore said.