Michael H. McDowell of Halifax Named 2019 Virginia Farmer of the Year

VA-McDowellNestled in the rolling hills and timberland of the southern Piedmont area of Virginia, Locust Level Farm is in a part of the state where, historically, fields of two to fifteen acres produced tobacco, supplemented by row crops. Michael McDowell is the fourth generation to practice stewardship on this land—designated a Virginia “century” farm—but he has taken some decidedly different directions from those of the past.

At the age of sixteen, McDowell says that his father offered him three acres of flue-cured tobacco under a sharecropper arrangement to produce funds for future college expenses. “I can’t say how important it was to take that step. It taught me early on the value of responsibility and about the challenges and rewards of working the land to provide for my needs.” He went on the graduate from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg with a double major in animal science and agronomy.

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VDACS Announces Path Forward for Industrial Hemp Processors

hemp2Industrial hemp has been one of the most exciting and talked-about crops in Virginia this past year. The inclusion of hemp in the 2018 farm bill had many people — both inside and outside the agriculture sector – racing to figure out the potential market for this agricultural product. The March 2019 passage of hemp legislation in Virginia only added to this fervor.

As of July 3, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has issued 847 Industrial Hemp Grower Registrations, 161 Industrial Hemp Processor Registrations, and 36 Industrial Hemp Dealer Registrations. Grower registration applications indicate that these Registered Industrial Hemp Growers plan to plant over 8,500 acres in industrial hemp this growing season.

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Resource Reminder: 2019-2020 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Digest

Hunting GuideThe 2019-2020 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Digest is available on the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ website. This guide contains hunting rules and regulations, including season lengths, bag limits, local firearms ordinances, and more. The digest is a useful tool for Virginia hunters to ensure that they are operating legally. Refer to the “What’s New” section for an overview of the latest regulatory changes. In addition to the online version, download the free “GoOutdoorsVA” app for easy, quick reference, or keep an eye out for a hard copy at your local license agent retailer.

Virginia Ranked 15th in the Nation for Rural Road Fatalities

Road sign of slow moving tractor in Holmes County, Ohio. OriginaVirginia ranks 15th among U.S. states with the highest number of fatalities on rural roads, according to a 2019 report from TRIP, a national transportation research group.

The report found that for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, the average number of traffic fatalities on rural, non-interstate roads in Virginia is 2.34. That is more than four times the average number of fatalities on all other roads in Virginia.

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Virginia Farmers Will Benefit From Broadband

broadband (1)A new national report found that Virginia agriculture could grow by 18% if broadband technology is extended to underserved communities.

“In the western part of the state and elsewhere you have huge spots where they not only don’t have high-speed internet, where they can’t upload the quantity of data, they also don’t have access in general,” said Ben Rowe, national affairs coordinator for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture report A Case for Rural Broadband argues that farmers in rural America need access to broadband for high-speed uploads and downloads. The Federal Communications Commission defines broadband as 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 megabits per second upload speed. Even a farmer with that level of broadband would spend significant time waiting to upload photos.

In Virginia, 28.9% of rural residents do not have broadband access, according to the FCC.

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Governor Northam Announces Record $73 Million in Funding for Improved Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program

Stream exclusionGovernor Ralph Northam today announced the availability of $73 million to protect water and soil health through the Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program, which represents the largest-ever investment of state funding to assist farmers implementing conservation practices. The program has been updated to provide greater flexibility and reduce barriers to farmer participation.

“This historic investment is exactly the type of commitment we need to ensure more producers can participate in the Commonwealth’s cost-share program to implement conservation practices and continue improving water quality in Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “Whether growing crops, raising cattle, or producing poultry, agricultural best management practices are important tools that can benefit Virginia farms while also helping keep pollution out of our streams and the Chesapeake Bay.”

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Resource Reminder: Planning the Future of Your Farm

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Stefanie Kitchen, Legislative Specialist

Farmers are reminded that an updated version of “Planning the Future of Your Farm: A Workbook Supporting Farm Transfer Decisions, Virginia Edition,” is available as a resource for those farm families interested in maintaining their land in agricultural use as it is transferred to the next generation. The workbook provides guidance on developing a vision for the future, evaluating your farm and forest resources, farm and forest transfer tools, and meeting with professional advisors.

Free workbooks are available thanks to the Virginia Agricultural License plate fund and can be requested from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Farmland Preservation at 804-786-1906 or jennifer.perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov. Farm Bureau members can also contact me at 804-290-1019 or stefanie.kitchen@vafb.com for a copy.

An online version is available here: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/446/446-610/446-610.html

Positive News on WOTUS and Mixed Bag on Trade this Week

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National Affairs Coordinator,                Ben Rowe

This year you have heard a lot from us about international trade and water quality. These are important issues that impact your ability to farm and your ability to market your products and receive a fair price for your efforts. This week we saw both positive and negative movement on trade with Mexico, as well as an important court decision regarding the legality of the Water of the United States (WOTUS) rule. This article will review that movement and explain what it could mean for your farm.

Federal Court Strikes 2015 Water Rule

This week a federal court invalidated the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ 2015 expansion of federal jurisdiction over small and isolated waters. After years of litigation in suits filed by dozens of state governments and trade groups, this is the first court to reach a final decision on the lawfulness of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Several court decisions have preliminarily blocked the rule in many states while the litigation progressed.

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