Take a Stand for Clean Water and Clear Rules

beautiful-clouds-countryside-1537136Last December, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army proposed a revised definition of “waters of the United States” with a goal of clarifying federal authority under the Clean Water Act and replacing the flawed 2015 rule. The agencies invited written pre-proposal recommendations and received submissions from AFBF, VAFB, and more than 6,000 other groups and individuals. The agencies took the many comments and recommendations under consideration, and, on February 14, 2019, the draft Clean Water Rule was publicly released.

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Fairfax Educator Named AITC Teacher of the Year

AITC TeacherChris Kniesly, a science teacher at Mark Twain Middle School in Fairfax County, has been named Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom 2019 Teacher of the Year.

The award recognizes a Virginia educator for incorporating agriculture into core curriculum.

Kniesly has established a school farm that includes chickens, aquaculture and hydroponics, which incorporate life science and biology. His goal is to provide students with an environmentally conscious introduction to agricultural concepts and to create real-life learning experiences. The school farm has an impact on all students at the school, but especially those in Kniesly’s science classes.

“Chris uses his extensive school farm and garden as the jumping-off point for real-life, hands-on examples to demonstrate a variety of science concepts,” noted Tammy Maxey, AITC senior education manager and president-elect of the National AITC Organization. “Through Chris’ efforts, his students are gaining a greater appreciation for agriculture, as well as an improved understanding that food begins on the farm.”

As Virginia AITC Teacher of the Year, Kniesly will receive a scholarship to attend the 2019 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in June in Little Rock, Ark., and a $500 award.

Virginia AITC also recognized Pamela Hall, a first-grade teacher at Windsor Elementary School in Isle of Wight County, as runner-up. Hall will receive registration to the 2019 National AITC Conference.

Virginia Agritourism Conference planned for Roanoke April 3-4

SaundersFarm031Agritourism entrepreneurs, economic development staff, and local government leaders will gather on Wednesday, April 3, and Thursday, April 4, 2019, at the Hotel Roanoke for the 2019 Virginia Agritourism Conference, and you are invited!

Virginia agritourism celebrates its $2.2 billion in economic impact, and Virginia farms strive to expand this growth by continuing to offer each guest with unique adventures on Virginia farms.

The fifth annual Virginia Agritourism Conference provides agritourism entrepreneurs access to the best resources and the opportunity to gather ideas that can be adapted to their own farms.  The 2019 conference features interaction with experts on developing an agritourism operation, celebrating the successes and managing the challenges of agritourism, delivering exceptional customer service, marketing the operation through multiple sources, ensuring farm safety, hosting events, building a regional approach, and networking with other agritourism farms.  During the afternoon of Day 1, participants will visit two or three agritourism venues related to orchards, wineries, festivals, and local products.

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Grant Awarded to Assist Virginia Farmers and Food Producers Selling Directly to Buyers

BettinaA planning grant was awarded from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund to Augusta, Rockingham, and Shenandoah counties to support the development of an innovative local foods program and share the program with other communities. The AFID planning grant program helps localities engage and promote the agriculture industry by providing and expanding new market opportunities at the local and regional level. Shenandoah County is serving as the lead for this project, which leverages an AFID award of $11,885 with an additional $14,000 in local funds.

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Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom Awards $10,000 in STEM grants

Ag in the ClassVirginia Agriculture in the Classroom has awarded 21 STEM grants to schools and 4-H chapters.

The funds total $10,000 and will provide 7,500 children and youth in 17 localities with an agriculture experience integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Projects include topics such as hydroponics, animal agriculture and leadership development.

Grants were made possible through funding by the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.

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American Farm Bureau Comments on FDA Dairy Food Labels

milk2Consumers associate dairy foods with specific positive nutritional characteristics, and those qualities do not necessarily carry over to nut- or plant-based products labeled as “milk,” “yogurt” or “cheese,” the American Farm Bureau Federation told federal regulators this week.

In formal comments to the Food and Drug Administration, AFBF said the mislabeling of nut- and plant-based beverages as “milk” confuses consumers from a nutritional equivalency standpoint. The FDA expects to issue a rule on the use of the names of dairy foods in the labeling of plant-based products later this year.

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