Ag Items Included in Governor’s Budget Proposal

Governor McAuliffe outlined his $109 billion budget proposal yesterday. Below are the agriculture items he included: 

Agriculture Best Management Practices and Soil and Water Conservation Districts
Governor McAuliffe dedicated the entire amount of the surplus in the Water Quality Improvement Fund to nonpoint source pollution projects.  In addition, he maintained the funding from the fee on the recordation tax.  The following is the breakdown:
$34,798,198 to Agriculture Best Management Practices Cost Share
$19,606,641 to address the backlog in the SL6 practice that farmers signed up for prior to July 1, 2015
$6,841,091 for operational funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts
$7,417,751 for technical assistance for Soil and Water Conservation Districts
While this is not the full amount of the need or the backlog, it will represents historic funding levels for agriculture best management practices cost share program and a significant investment in the backlog for the SL6 practice. We are still evaluating whether we will be seeking a patron to carry a budget amendment to increase the funding further.  

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Weights and Measures
We were disappointed that the Governor did not increase the amount of funding for the weights and measures program.  The program will have $2.8 million.  We will be seeking a patron from the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees to carry a budget amendment to increase the funding.
VT Livestock and Poultry Facilities Phase 1
The Governor announced a week ago his bond package that he plans to introduce in the General Assembly.  This includes the $22.5 million for this project.  We will be supporting this project being included in any bonding package that moves forward in the General Assembly.
Other Budget Items of Interest
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Meat and Poultry Inspection
Matches federal funding in order to provide two inspector positions and one compliance specialist.  This is an increase of $104,255 in state funding to match additional federal funding.
Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund
Provides additional $1 million available to bring the total available to $2 million.  In addition, funding is provided to hire two marketing specialists for this grant program.
Virginia Grown Foods Ambassador and Grow Virginia’s Organic Food Production Specialist
$243,696 to establish a Virginia Grown Food Ambassador and a Grow Virginia’s organic food production specialist to promote Virginia grown products.  These positions will work to raise the profile of Virginia agricultural products and foods and to increase use in restaurants, schools and institutions as well as support the “Bridging the Nutritional Divide Initiative.
Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund
Increases the amount available to $2 million to compensate landowners who voluntarily place an agricultural conservation easement on their property.
National Accreditation for Regional Animal Health Laboratories
Provides $250,138 for the department to pursue national accreditation of the regional animal health laboratories. This should help farmers with their marketing agreements that include animal health components.
Transferring Responsibility of Virginia’s federal food programs in Schools and Other Places to VDACS
Requires Department of Education, Health and Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop a plan to transfer federally funded feeding services governed by the Commonwealth to one agency.  We are seeking additional information on this initiative to understand the benefits of such a consolidation.
Virginia Department of Forestry
Reforestation of Timberlands (RT) Program
Fully funds the RT program to match the industry severance tax.
 Fire Suppression Equipment
Provides $1.076 million to replace fire dozers and transports used in fire suppression activities and additional support vehicles utilized by first responders who are also firefighters.

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