Governor Youngkin Announces Virginia Grand Basin Clean Water Farm Award Winners

Ten farms honored for exceptional soil and water conservation practices

Governor Glenn Youngkin today announced the 10 winners of the Virginia Grand Basin Clean Water Farm Awards for 2022. The awards recognize farmers or farm owners doing exceptional work to protect soil and water resources. One winner is selected from each of Virginia’s major river basins.

“Virginia’s farmers are vital to the Commonwealth’s work to restore the health of streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “The Grand Basin Clean Water Farm Award winners are among our most innovative stewards of the land and water, and Virginians owe them a debt of gratitude for their outstanding conservation work.”

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation sponsors the awards in partnership with Virginia’s 47 soil and water conservation districts.

The winning farm owners or operators employ technologies and best management practices that improve water quality. Such efforts include planting cover crops, establishing rotational grazing, installing vegetative buffers along streams and keeping livestock out of waterways.

“It is important to commend these Virginia farmers who are taking important steps to conserve soil and protect water quality on their land,” said Travis Voyles, acting Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources. “By taking action to safeguard our critical natural resources, these efforts benefit all Virginians and protect our legacy of rich, fertile land and productive farms.”

Several of the winners are farms extending several generations. These include Steve and Charlie Smith in Washington County, the seventh generation of their family to run their farm, and the Teel family, whose Clover Green Farm in Albemarle County has been in the family since the late 1700s.

“This year’s Clean Water Farm Award winners represent the best in conservation farming in Virginia,” said Matthew Lohr, Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “We are especially proud of — and grateful to — these successful farmers, who are role models helping bring other producers into the best practices fold. They’re showing the Commonwealth that conservation isn’t just good for the environment. It’s good for business.”

“DCR is proud to sponsor this awards program with the soil and water conservation districts,” said DCR Director Matt Wells. “These farms are shining examples of the agricultural community’s commitment to helping Virginia meet its water quality goals. Their leadership in keeping nutrients out of waterways and conserving soil resources is inspiring and helps ensure that their farms will be best-in-class for generations to come.”

Virginia’s soil and water conservation districts offer farmers technical assistance and advice on new technologies and practices to help them stay on the cutting edge of conservation farming.

“District staff and the farmers they work with are dedicated to growth and continuous improvement in practices that enrich our natural resources,” said Dr. Kendall Tyree, executive director of VASWCD. “We’re proud that many of our partnerships with these farms go back decades. We appreciate the opportunity to assist the agricultural community and look forward to continuing to expand these mutually beneficial partnerships that enhance our land and waters.”

For descriptions of each farm, go to www.dcr.virginia.gov/soil-and-water/cwfa-winners.

2022 winners

Big Sandy – Tennessee Rivers

Steve and Charlie Smith, Holston Vista Farm

Nominated by Holston River Soil and Water Conservation District

Chowan River

John Shepherd, Shepherd Grain Farms

Nominated by Piedmont Soil and Water Conservation District

Coastal

Jim Evans, Evans Farms

Nominated by Eastern Shore Soil and Water Conservation District

James River

The Teel Family, Clover Green Farm LLC

Nominated by Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District

New-Yadkin River

The Hudgins Family, DRH Farm

Nominated by Big Walker Soil and Water Conservation District

Potomac River

Karla Evans, Creek Hill Farm

Nominated by Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District

Rappahannock River

Jacob & Jennifer Gilley, Heaven’s Hollow Farm

Nominated by Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District

Roanoke River

Brian Hall, IJN LLC

Nominated by Halifax Soil and Water Conservation District

Shenandoah River

Weldon Heatwole, Cedar Ridge Dairy, Inc.

Nominated by Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District

York River

The Sedwick Family, Lakeland Farm Nominated by Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District

VDACS Announces Expansion of Virginia’s Imported Fire Ant Quarantine

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announces the expansion of the Virginia Imported Fire Ant Quarantine to include Charlotte, Dinwiddie, Halifax, Lunenburg, and Sussex counties. The expansion is based on the agency’s imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta Buren and Solenopsis richteri Forel, and their hybrids) surveys which indicate that the invasive pest has become established in these counties. The expansion of the quarantine is necessary to slow the spread of this insect pest to un-infested areas of the Commonwealth. Once established, the imported fire ant has the potential to spread to un-infested areas, either through natural means or through the artificial movement of infested articles.

Under the terms of the quarantine, articles that are capable of transporting the imported fire ant (regulated articles) are prohibited from moving out of the quarantined area unless certified as free of imported fire ant. Regulated articles include, but are not limited to:

  • Any life stage of imported fire ant;
  • Soil (excludes soil shipped in original containers after commercial preparation);
  • Plants with roots with soil attached and rhizomes with soil attached;
  • Grass sod;
  • Used soil-moving equipment (unless free of all non-compacted soil);
  • Used farm equipment (unless free of all non-compacted soil);
  • Hay and straw stored in direct contact with the ground;
  • Honey bee hives stored in direct contact with the ground; and
  • Logs and pulpwood with soil attached.

Businesses located in Charlotte, Dinwiddie, Halifax, Lunenburg, and Sussex counties, along with previously quarantined localities, who are shipping to locations outside of the quarantined area are required to follow the USDA-approved treatment and shipping options as outlined in the Quarantine Treatments for Nursery Stock, Grass Sod, and Related Materials manual. Businesses may enter into a compliance agreement with VDACS to facilitate shipping regulated articles in accordance with the quarantine provisions. Click here to see if your location is within the Virginia Imported Fire Ant Quarantine.

Imported fire ants are an invasive species and are a threat to Virginia’s agriculture and natural resources, as they may damage crops, agricultural equipment, and impact wildlife. As an urban pest, imported fire ants are a nuisance pest and can cause allergic reactions including rare instances of anaphylactic shock in humans.

For additional information regarding the Virginia Imported Fire Ant Quarantine or provisions of a VDACS imported fire ant compliance agreement please click here.

Governor Details New Economic Impact Study of Virginia Agriculture and Forestry

In 2021, industries provided more than a $105 billion boost to the commonwealth’s economy

During the recent Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced the results of an economic impact study from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Concluding in October, the research found that in 2021 the total economic impact of Virginia agriculture and forestry industries was over $105 billion in total industry output. This total represents an estimated 11.2% of the entire state’s output. In addition, the total employment influence for these two Virginia industries was 490,295 employees, representing 9.4% of total state employment.

“In addition to more than $105 billion in total industry output, the total value-added impact of Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries was $55.1 billion, which made up 9.3% of the state’s gross domestic product,” said Youngkin. “This study highlights the important role Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries play in the commonwealth’s economy. These industries are major employers, and their economic influence is far beyond the farms and forests where most agricultural and forestry commodities are grown and harvested.”

“The study executed by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service provides a comprehensive representation of the contribution that our agricultural and forestry industries make to the economy of the commonwealth of Virginia,” said Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr. “Like many industries, Virginia’s agriculture and forestry sectors were profoundly impacted by the pandemic; however, both sectors have recovered lost ground and forged ahead to support Virginia’s overall economy.”

The study, led by regional economist Terrance Rephann, updates previous studies done in 2008, 2013 and 2017. Over the last five years, which included production and supply chain interruptions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries’ statewide economic impact in 2021 was over $105 billion in total output, compared to the $98.2 billion combined output in 2016. The total employment impact for the industries rose 3% from 478,079 jobs in 2016 to 490,295 jobs in 2021. The total value-added impression of the industries grew 10%, from $50.1 billion in 2016 to $55.1 billion in 2021.

“The study highlights the importance of agriculture to Virginia’s economy and how the diversity of the state’s agricultural production helps position producers for success,” said Joseph Guthrie, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.“The VDACS team is focused on helping Virginia farmers and producers move more of their products to local and national markets, and within the global marketplace.”

In 2021, the total impact of Virginia agricultural industries alone was $82.3 billion in total industry output, included 381,844 jobs, and $43.8 billion in value-added impact. Livestock account for approximately 63% of farm cash receipts, with poultry, beef and dairy constituting the largest products. Crops make up the difference with grains such as corn, wheat and soybeans being the most significant field crops. Greenhouse and nursery products are also important. Virginia’s food, beverage and fiber processors and manufacturers buy many of their agricultural commodity inputs from Virginia farmers. These industries have grown by approximately 1,100 jobs (2%) over the last five years. In 2021, Virginia ranked fourth nationally in the production of tobacco, seventh for apples, eighth for peanuts, and 10th for poultry and eggs and trout aquaculture.

“The forests that cover two-thirds of Virginia provide a range of economic, social and environmental benefits,” said Rob Farrell, State Forester of the Virginia Department of Forestry.“Not only is forestry the third largest contributor to the economy of Virginia, the forestry industry touches every part of the commonwealth.”

In 2021, Virginia’s forestry industries had a total impact of $23.6 billion in total industry output, and included 108,451 jobs and $11.3 billion in value added impact.

In addition to production activities at farms and timber tracts, agriculture and forestry industries encompass food and beverage processing, some agricultural fiber-related textile manufacturing, wood products manufacturing, pulp and paper mills, and furniture manufacturing. Distribution businesses such as grain elevators and raw commodity warehouses rely on supplies of Virginia farm and forest products as well. These production, manufacturing and distribution sectors procure material and service inputs, labor and value-added services from Virginia-based businesses and households. Such purchases account for a multiplier effect that captures the flow of dollars as it ripples through the Virginia economy. Because of this “ripple effect,” Virginia agriculture and forest industries affect every other industry in the commonwealth to some degree.

This study did not capture or include economic activity connected to corporate and regional offices, research and development laboratories and other operations of agribusiness manufacturing firms. Several areas of activity such as recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, ecosystems services, agritourism, wine tourism, horse events and agricultural festivals also were not part of the Cooper Center study. If included, the total impact would be several billion dollars more.

Finally, the study did not address the environmental and other social economic benefits of agriculture and forested landscapes for the commonwealth. These benefits include improved water and air quality, flood risk mitigation, wildlife habitat conservation and scenic amenities, among others. A full copy of the study, as well as an Executive Summary, is posted on the VDACS website at ww.vdacs.virginia.gov/pdf/weldoncooper.pdf and on the VDOF website at www.dof.virginia.gov.

Virginia Farm Bureau Responds to Roanoke Times Commentary

The November 13 commentary, “Animal agriculture struggles show need for alternative protein sources,” in the The Roanoke Times painted an inaccurate picture of the animal agriculture industry, suggesting animal proteins are expensive, environmentally irresponsible sources of human illness. In this response, Wayne Pryor, president of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, explains how Virginia farmers are committed to being good stewards of the land and the environment, and producing a quality product.

Read Pryor’s full commentary below or here:

““Animal agriculture struggles show need for alternative protein sources” (commentary, Nov. 13) painted an inaccurate picture of the animal agriculture industry, suggesting animal proteins are expensive, environmentally irresponsible sources of human illness.

Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, providing the basis for more than 334,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of $70 billion. Animal agriculture is the industry’s largest component. In addition to being a huge economic driver, the animal agriculture sector is a consistent source of safe, affordable and nutritious products, and it is making recognized advances to reduce its environmental impact.

Globally, animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. However, that does not capture the full picture of progress made in developed nations, compared to the impact of developing nations.

Advances in genetics and technology have allowed livestock producers to do more with less.

The United States transportation sector greatly exceeds agriculture in terms of GHG emissions — not the other way around. Livestock contributes only 4% of GHG emissions in the U.S., and between 1961 and 2018 the U.S. beef community reduced GHG emissions per pound of beef produced by more than 40%, while also producing 66% more beef per animal.

Livestock are able to make use of land not suitable for crop production, as well as combat food waste by consuming byproducts that are unusable to humans.

The authors of the Nov. 13 commentary referenced the 17 sustainability goals related to the Paris Agreement of 2015 but failed to mention the agriculture industry’s commitment to being part of the solution, as summarized in the 2020 “U.S. People are also reading… Agriculture’s Opportunities to Contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals” report from U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action.

Here in Virginia, livestock producers are doing their part by voluntarily implementing best management practices to reduce agriculture’s impact on water quality.

In the face of food insecurity and food accessibility challenges at home and abroad, animal protein is a smart, nutritious option, given that a 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides more than 10% of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins for less than 10% of your daily calories. In addition, animal byproducts are used to make many other consumer and industrial goods.

The U.S. has the safest and most affordable food supply in the world, and it is irresponsible to suggest otherwise. For example, salmonella presence in tested chicken is at an all-time low for both whole and ground meat, with 98.5% of tests being negative for whole chickens at large processing plants.

We are blessed to have so many food choices, and consumers have the right to make their own purchasing decisions. But it is critical that those decisions be based on reality, not misconceptions and misinformation. Virginia farmers are committed to being good stewards of the land and the environment, and producing a quality product.

After all, they are feeding their families and yours.”

Farm Finance and Conservation Planning Seminar

Hosted by the Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry

One of the top priorities of Governor Youngkin is to help the next generation of agricultural producers find success. Access to financing is one of the most challenging barriers beginning farmers face. In order to address this issue, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matt Lohr has partnered with key lending institutions and state and federal agencies to host an educational workshop. The Farm Financing and Conservation Planning Seminar will provide resources helping producers explore their options. The seminar will also incorporate a conservation component since cost share funding is at an all-time high. 

Please join this FREE networking opportunity for beginning farmers to learn about farm financing and cost share conservation opportunities. The seminar is being held on two different dates and in two locations.

December 8, 2022

Meadow Event Park / State Fairgrounds
13191 Dawn Boulevard, Doswell, VA
“Meadow Hall Building”

Presentations by:   

Colonial Farm Credit
First Bank & Trust
Farm Services Agency (FSA)
Soil and Water Conservation Districts (VASWCD)
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Thank you to our sponsors!  

Colonial Farm Credit  
First Bank & Trust

December 16, 2022

Blue Ridge Community College
1 College Lane, Weyers Cave, VA 
“Plecker Center Meeting Room”

Presentations by:

Farm Credit of the Virginias
First Bank & Trust
F&M Bank
Farm Services Agency (FSA)
Soil and Water Conservation Districts (VASWCD)
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Thank you to our sponsors!  

Farm Credit of the Virginias  
First Bank & Trust
F&M Bank

Agenda:

9:00 am-10:00 am       Registration/Visit with Sponsors and Agencies

10:00 am-11:45 am     Presenting Sessions

11:45 am-12:00 pm     Q/A & Summary with Morning Presenters 

12:00 pm-1:00 pm       Lunch/Visit with Sponsors and Agencies. Lunch will be provided by our sponsors.

1:00 pm-2:00 pm         Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service

2:00 pm-2:15 pm          Q/A and Summary with Afternoon Presenters

2:15 pm-2:30 pm          Wrap Up

Registration:

To register, email rebecca.paramore@governor.virginia.gov.

Please register by December 5 for the Doswell seminar and by December 13 for the Weyers Cave seminar.