Virginia’s agriculture community had reason for a pre-holiday celebration when Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a $2.43 billion bond package on Dec. 9 that will be part of his Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget.
The package supports capital projects to enhance the state’s technological and economic development infrastructure. It includes first-phase funding for livestock and poultry research facilities at Virginia Tech—a project of considerable interest to Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
“This is great news for Virginia agriculture,” said Martha Moore, VFBF vice president of governmental relations. “The livestock and poultry industries garner $1.8 billion in cash receipts annually. These research facilities at Virginia Tech help to support livestock and poultry farmers, processors and auxiliary businesses. They also put Virginia farmers at a more competitive advantage in the domestic and global marketplaces.”
The current animal and poultry research facilities at Virginia Tech are more than 50 years old. A 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture noted that almost every structure “requires repair or renovation. While some of these facilities have received minor repairs and upgrades … many are in much need of further repair, if not a complete overhaul.”
The Animal Sciences Department maintains a 200-ewe sheep flock, a 150-cow beef herd, a 40-sow swine herd, a five-building turkey center with facilities for more than 2,000 young and 1,500 adult chickens, and a herd of 75 to 120 horses for teaching and research activities on campus.
The facilities for Phase 1 of the desired upgrade include 126,000 square feet for a new swine breeding facility, a new swine farrowing and finishing facility, a new equine barn, a new beef nutrition and physiology research laboratory, a new poultry grow-out facility, a new turkey production building, major renovations to the large animal judging pavilion, and numerous feed and equipment buildings.
“These buildings are not like the facilities you would build on a farm,” Moore noted. “They have to meet state building specifications with a higher building life expectancy, and they must comply with laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. To conduct funded research expected by the agriculture industry and the government, they must have accreditation from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.”
When McAuliffe spoke Dec. 3 at the VFBF Annual Convention in Norfolk, he told farmers that his proposed budget will be an aggressive one for agriculture, adding, “I think everybody will be happy.”
Moore said his Dec. 9 announcement “is a big step in making farmers happy. While there are a few other critical items that farmers want funded, they are pleased to see that he recognizes the value of this project in growing opportunities for agriculture and strengthening Virginia’s economy.”