Governor McDonnell Signs Agriculture and Forestry Development Legislation

Gov. Bob McDonnell

 Governor Bob McDonnell signed agriculture and forestry development legislation passed during the recently concluded 2012 session of the General Assemblyat  Cave View Farm in Weyers Cave yesterday.  McDonnell was joined by members of the General Assembly, representatives from the agriculture and forestry industries as well as local economic development associations and chambers of commerce.

During the event he signed legislation establishing the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund which will function similar to the Governor’s Opportunity Fund. He also signed legislation adding the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and the Secretary of Technology as voting members of the board of directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority to increase coordination among economic development entities.

“All this great news emphasizes the importance of agriculture and forestry to Virginia; they are the state’s two largest industries. Together, they have a combined economic impact of $79 billion annually and provide more than 500,000 jobs across the state. But, we can do more to help spur more economic activity in agriculture and forestry. That is one reason we’ve created the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund. This new economic development tool will help incentivize the creation or expansion of businesses that utilize Virginia agricultural and forestry products, thus providing more opportunities particularly in rural areas of the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said. “Recognizing the industries’ importance to Virginia’s overall economic well-being, we also asked the General Assembly to approve legislation that adds the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, along with the Secretary of Technology, to the board of directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership so that we can further capitalize on agribusiness and technology potential in Virginia – two important and growing industries in the Commonwealth. All of the legislation being signed today will further strengthen our agriculture and forestry industries, create greater coordination and promotion of the industries by Virginia, and help our growers and producers thrive in the Commonwealth. And all of that means more jobs for our citizens.”

Cave View Farm is a 2,000 acre dairy and crop farm, with 1,100 cows and the highest silo in Virginia, which stands 148 feet high. In 2010, Cave View Farm received the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s “Shenandoah Basin Clean Water Award.” Governor McDonnell first visited the farm as a candidate for governor in August 2009.

“Three years ago we came to this farm to discuss our vision for how to grow Virginia’s agricultural and forestry industries to help create more good paying jobs for our citizens. Today, we can point to the results of that work. Virginia agriculture exports reached an all-time high in 2011, as we exported a record $2.35 billion worth of products,” McDonnell said. “Working with the General Assembly, we’ve significantly increased international marketing funds to help us capitalize on the tremendous growth opportunities in countries like China and India and other key regions in the global marketplace. These efforts are helping our producers and agribusinesses achieve new successes. Since 2010, we’ve helped to facilitate deals that have added more than $150 million in new agricultural exports from Virginia, including major new shipments of soybeans and wine to China; livestock to Russia and Canada; and wine, seafood, and specialty foods to the European Union.”

Bills Signed Today

HB766 (Landes)/ SB128 (Stanley) – Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund
•Creates the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund

•The bill establishes an economic development grant and loan program targeted specifically at agricultural and forestry operations.

•Despite agriculture and forestry being the two largest industries in the Commonwealth, this legislation is the first to create an economic development incentive targeted specifically at these industries.

•AFID is structured much like the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, but is specifically designed to accommodate the unique aspects of agriculture and forestry projects.

•AFID will provide grants for projects that utilize Virginia grown products in value-added or processing facilities.

•These agriculture and forestry value-added or processing facilities can have tremendous impacts on the regions in which they locate.

•Areas where these facilities typically locate are rural with higher unemployment

•Agriculture is already a core economic driver in the area, so facilities of this kind can build on the region’s existing strength.

•These facilities have a greater economic ripple effect as a result of growers in the region having a new market in which to sell products.

•Farm revenue increases as a result of these facilities

•Jobs are created on the farm and in the facility

•Greater opportunities to increase farm profitability lead to more farmland preserved

•The entire region sees an economic benefit from revenue generated on the farms and at the facility

HB292 (Scott, Ed)/ SB405 (Hanger) – Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority; increases membership of board of directors

•Adds the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry (SAF) and the Secretary of Technology (SOT) as voting members of the board of directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority

 •Legislation continues the Governor’s strategy to fully integrate agriculture and forestry, the two largest industries in Virginia, into the broader economic development and job creation efforts of Virginia.

•Having SOT on the VEDP board will bring insights regarding emerging technology markets and provide technical insight into the type of infrastructure necessary to support technology adoption.

•SAF membership on VEDP board indicates to prospective companies that agriculture and forestry interests are important parts of Virginia’s economic development efforts.

•As a VEDP board member, SAF will play an even greater role in shaping the programs and policies which will further investment and job creation in agribusiness and related sectors.

•Technology remains an economic engine in the Commonwealth and SOT’s presence on the VEDP board will provide valuable opportunities to leverage expansion/relocation activities in the IT sector into valuable job opportunities.