Virginia has the materials to build a bridge between its urban and rural districts, and the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee has drawn up a blueprint to get the job done.
Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, who chairs that committee, addressed more than 130 county Farm Bureau presidents and other Farm Bureau volunteer leaders who gathered in Richmond Jan. 26 prior to the annual Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Legislative Day on Jan. 27.
“I’ve got to be honest,” Petersen said. “Representing an urban district like Fairfax, I was not expecting to be put on the agriculture committee. And I was certainly not expecting to love it as much as I ended up loving it.”
He said the threefold vision of the committee includes promoting Virginia farm products, promoting exports, and preserving open spaces and natural resources.
To promote Virginia farmers and their products, the committee wants to make it easier for farm-to-table restaurants, farmers markets and individual producers to operate. Petersen said expanding agritourism across the state generates revenue while preserving open spaces.
The committee believes exports should be a priority so the world can experience Virginia’s finest products, he noted.
“We have certain products in Virginia that are unparalleled, and the rest of the world cannot match them,” Petersen said. “My goals as ag chair is to make sure we get those products into the stream of commerce around the world as easily as we can.”
Hardwoods are an example of a premium Virginia agricultural product that is in demand internationally. He said exporting products like hardwood “is critical to our success as a nation and critical to our success as a state.”
Preserving open spaces and natural resources, he said, is the most significant goal of the committee.
“Good farming is sustainable,” Petersen said. “It sustains the people who eat; it sustains the soil and the land. My goal is to use agriculture in a way that we preserve open spaces in Virginia. I believe that farming should not compete with environmentalism.”