NAHMS to Conduct Swine Study in Spring 2021

From May through July 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Monitoring System, in collaboration with the National Agricultural Statistics Service, will conduct its third national study of U.S. small enterprise swine operations.

The voluntary and confidential study will examine operations with fewer than 1,000 pigs and those operations’ animal health and management practices, as well as their alternative marketing strategies. Approximately 5,000 swine operations from 38 states, Virginia included, will be asked to participate.

In May, selected producers will receive a letter describing the study, along with a questionnaire to be returned by mail or online.

Participating in the study will benefit the U.S. swine industry by:

  • Providing credible information on industry practices that will help counter misinformation.
  • Benchmarking current production practices.
  • Assisting the industry in understanding disease preparedness and vulnerabilities.
  • Helping policymakers and industry stakeholders make science-based decisions.
  • Providing data that will be used by academia, pharmaceutical researchers and others to identify and focus on vital issues related to swine health and reproductivity on small enterprises.
  • Identifying educational needs related to health and production on small enterprise operations.

Details are available at

Virginia Farm Bureau Announces “Friend of Farm Bureau” Recipients for 116th Congress

Near the conclusion of each two-year legislative session, Virginia Farm Bureau presents the Friend of Farm Bureau Award to members of Congress. Virginia senators and representatives are nominated for the award by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation (VFBF) and approved by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Board of Directors.

We are proud to announce that eight members of Virginia’s congressional delegation have been recognized with the Friend of Farm Bureau Award for supporting agriculture-related policies in the 116th Congress.

To be eligible for nomination, members of Congress must consistently vote in support of Farm Bureau’s policy positions. The voting records are based on AFBF priority issues, as determined by its Board of Directors. The Friend of Farm Bureau Award is not a political endorsement but rather a recognition of the member’s support for agriculture as demonstrated over the past two years.

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Va. Farmers Adversely Affected by Drought are Eligible for Assistance

Fourteen Virginia counties and contiguous localities have been designated as natural disaster areas, and farmers in those areas may be eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

Farmers in the following localities who suffered losses caused by drought and excessive heat during the summer can apply for the loans: Accomack, Amelia, Brunswick, Caroline, Chesterfield, Culpeper, Dinwiddie, Essex, Fauquier, Gloucester, Goochland, Greensville, Hanover, Henrico, Isle of Wight, King and Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Louisa, Middlesex, New Kent, Northampton, Nottoway, Orange, Prince George, Prince William, Richmond, Southampton, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Surry and Sussex counties, and the cities of Emporia, Franklin, Fredericksburg, Newport News, Petersburg and Suffolk.

The natural disaster designations allow FSA to extend emergency credit to farmers recovering from natural disasters. The loans can be used to replace equipment or livestock, reorganize a farming operation or refinance debt. Contact a local USDA service center for eligibility requirements and application instructions, or visit

Young Farmers to Compete for National Honors, Prizes During AFBF Virtual Events

VFBF Young Farmers competing at the 2020 AFBF Annual Meeting

Winners of four Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers competitions will compete against their peers from across the nation.

Matthew Heldreth of Wythe County, winner of the VFBF Young Farmers Achievement Award; Jonathan and Kelsey Grimes of Wythe County, winners of the VFBF Young Farmers Excellence in Agriculture Award; and Jacob Gilley of Orange County, winner of the VFBF Young Farmers Discussion Meet will compete for the national titles during the 2021 American Farm Bureau Federation Virtual Convention in January.

Díaz Tompkins, a student at Southside Virginia Community College, winner of the VFBF Collegiate Young Farmers Discussion Meet, will compete in the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Collegiate Discussion Meet, to be held virtually during the Farm Bureau FUSION Conference in March.

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Va. Agribusinesses Receive $2.8 Million in USDA Grants

Fourteen Virginia agribusinesses received U.S. Department of Agriculture grants to help them expand production, distribution and marketing of agricultural products.

Among the farmers and rural entrepreneurs that received Value-Added Producer Grants, 13 were assisted by the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability, an affiliate of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

Companies aided by VA FAIRS received a combined $2.8 million in grant funding for their projects.

VAPG funds can be used by entrepreneurs to develop new merchandise from agricultural products, expand established product lines and increase marketing opportunities for them.

VA FAIRS-assisted clients received grants for value-added projects such as opening creameries, restaurants and tasting rooms. Others received funding to expand direct sales of dairy and meat products, beer, wine and other spirits, shucked oysters and lavender-derived goods.

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Checkoff Beefing up TV Presence This Holiday Season

Viewers tuning into the Hallmark Channel this holiday season can feast their eyes on a delicious sight. For the first time since 2003, Beef Checkoff-funded “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” advertisements are appearing on television.

The commercials are airing during the channel’s holiday programming. Based on the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” campaign’s successful 2019 “Drool Log” video of a prime rib slowly roasting over an open fire, the 15-second clips whet viewers’ appetites for beef as a holiday meal.

“The Virginia Beef Council is excited to see “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” aired on television again,” said Stephanie Weiss, the council’s executive director. “With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping more people at home, the Hallmark Channel provides an excellent opportunity to speak to consumers during the holiday season. Beef is a delicious comfort food that reminds folks of happy times with family and friends.”

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County Farm Bureaus, Businesses Win Awards for Creative Hay Bale Displays

County Farm Bureaus, FFA chapters, 4-H clubs and agribusinesses in Virginia created a variety of displays with hay bales to compete in Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Hay Bale Decorating Contest.

Now in its sixth year, the competition is a fun and fanciful way for communities to showcase their love for agriculture. It was sponsored by the VFBF Women’s Leadership Committee and ran from Sept. 1 through Nov. 1. County Farm Bureaus were encouraged to solicit entries from local businesses and organizations such as farmers markets and agricultural school groups.

“It was exciting to receive so many entries this year, considering the pandemic,” said Faye Hundley, chairman of the VFBF Women’s Leadership Committee. “Young groups took advantage of an activity they could do while social distancing and still have fun. The hay bale displays ranged from celebrating community spirit by honoring our first responders to promoting agriculture and their organizations.”

This year’s contest drew 40 entries. Winners each received a $100 cash award and were announced on the VFBF Women’s Program Facebook page.

The winners are:

  • Best agribusiness, FFA or 4-H display: Wade’s Orchard in Patrick County
  • Best promotional display for agriculture business or commodity: Louisa County 4-H Livestock Club
  • Best agriculture-themed display: Three Rivers Soil and Water Conservation District in Essex County
  • Most creative display: Botetourt County 4-H Livestock Club
  • Best promotional display for community spirit: Fluvanna County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee

Roanoke Times Reporter Wins Top Journalistic Honor for Agricultural Coverage; Other News Professionals Lauded As Well

Casey Fabris, a business reporter for The Roanoke Times, captured Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s 2020 Ishee-Quann Award for Media Excellence, the top honor in Farm Bureau’s annual Journalism Awards program. Fabris also won in the award program’s daily newspaper category. She has been a reporter at The Roanoke Times since 2015.

Her work in the past year has included coverage of the Franklin County Agricultural Fair; opportunities for cheese processing as demand for fluid milk has declined; Christmas tree farming in a recession; the toll of last fall’s drought conditions on farms surrounding Roanoke; the work of volunteer gleaners to help feed their communities; and a pandemic-related spike in demand for local foods.

The Ishee-Quann Award is named in part for Jeff Ishee, who operates On the Farm, a daily, web-based farm news service, and who is a former serial recipient of VFBF Journalism Awards. The late Homer Quann was WSVA Harrisonburg radio’s farm news director for several decades and was known as the most dedicated agricultural reporter in Virginia.

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Wythe County Farmer Named Achievement Award Winner

Matthew Heldreth of Wythe County has been named the 2020 Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers Achievement Award winner.

Heldreth was recognized on social media Nov. 30 after a virtual competition was held.

The Achievement Award honors young farmers who are successful in production agriculture and provide leadership on and off the farm. Heldreth and his wife, Shelbie, manage a beef cattle operation at Heldreth Farms, with 350 cow-calf pairs on 1,200 acres. He serves as chairman of the Wythe County Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee.

Heldreth will receive one year’s use of a Kubota tractor of his choice; a farm utility vehicle from Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co.; and cash awards of $1,000 from Farm Credit, $500 from VFBF and $500 from Chesterfield County Farm Bureau. He will compete for the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award at the 2021 AFBF Virtual Convention in January.Sarah Large of Buckingham County was this year’s VFBF Achievement Award runner-up. Large and her husband, Frankie, finish an average of 20,000 breeding gilts annually for Smithfield Foods and own a cow-calf beef operation. She serves on the VFBF Women’s Leadership Committee and the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom board of directors. She will receive $1,500 from Farm Bureau.