Governor Northam Announces New Grant Program Supporting Local Food and Farming Infrastructure 

Local governments can apply for grants to support farmers markets and small-scale agricultural facilities October 1 through November 15

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a new grant program designed to support equitable and sustainable local food systems for small-scale agricultural producers, farmers markets, and food hubs. It is a new component of the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund.

This Infrastructure Program competitively awards matching grants of up to $25,000 in partnership with local governments for community infrastructure development projects that support local food production and sustainable agriculture. Special reduced match requirements are available to projects in economically distressed localities, underserved communities, or for those benefiting multiple small-scale producers.

“Ensuring equitable access to healthy and affordable food for all Virginians has always been a priority of this administration,” said Governor Northam. “One of the best ways we can do this is by partnering with local governments to make strategic investments in our local food systems.  The local infrastructure created by this new program will enable Virginia’s small-scale farmers and food producers to thrive, grow local economies, and improve food access.”

“One of the greatest strengths of Virginia agriculture, the Commonwealth’s largest private sector industry, is its diversity,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am pleased that the new Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure Program provides another economic development tool for localities. These resources make funding accessible to communities that need it most and benefit farmers and producers, as well as our local food systems.”

Delegate Sam Rasoul’s House Bill 2068 created this grant program during the 2021 General Assembly session. The legislation authorizes the Governor to award grants of up to $25,000 to political subdivisions.

The reimbursable grants are primarily for capital projects at new and existing food hubs, farmers markets, commercial kitchens and other value-added facilities such as those for the processing and packaging of meats, dairy products, produce, or other Virginia-grown products. Small farmers, food producers, local food systems advocates and others interested in building their community’s local food and farming infrastructure are encouraged to learn more about the program and work with their localities to identify and develop suitable projects.

Applications for this funding can be submitted October 1 through November 15. Final award announcements will be made no later than December 31 of this year.   

“The Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure program, with its focus on supporting local food and farming, benefits both our communities and farmers,” said Delegate Rasoul. “The money spent with local farmers and growers stays close to home and is reinvested with the businesses and services in our communities.”

The new Infrastructure Program joins two other the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development funded programs, all of which are administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Facility Grants Program is a Governor’s discretionary economic development incentive for new and expanding facilities that, in addition to creating new jobs and investment, add value to Virginia-grown products. The Planning Grants Program funds a wide range of activities that support agriculture and forestry-based industries more broadly and is designed to empower localities to develop creative solutions tailored to their unique needs.

Additional information about the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure program is available here. Questions about the program and upcoming application workshops should be directed to Jennifer.Perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov.

New Faces at Virginia Farm Bureau!

We have seen a few staff changes over the last few months at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and would like to introduce you to two fresh faces that will be working to support our members across the state.

Samantha “Sam” Norman is our new Program Support Specialist. Sam will be supporting Governmental Relations meetings, the policy development process, and the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation AgPAC. She will also be supporting fundraising staff for the Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) with their fundraising efforts. Sam obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Virginia Tech. She holds a master’s degree in Agriculture and Applied Economics and a bachelor’s degree in Animal and Poultry Science. Sam grew up on a draft horse and mule farm in Baltimore County, Maryland. Currently she and her husband Brian reside on a farm in New Kent County where they are raising their son Walter. Sam still enjoys her draft horses and mules on their farm in Quinton where she rides and drives as much as possible. Sam shared she is excited to join the governmental relations team!

Samantha “Sam” Norman, Program Support Specialist, with her husband Brian and son Walter

Elijah Griles is our new Commodity Specialist in the Agriculture, Development & Innovation Department. Elijah was born and raised on a small cow/calf farm in Amelia County. Whether cutting hay, working calves, or simply going for a stroll through the pasture in the evening, he loves being in nature and working with all creatures. A 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech he is also a dyed in the wool Hokie. Completing degrees in both Theatre Arts and Animal and Poultry Sciences, Elijah was often asked how he could possibly combine the two. At graduation he revealed that he did so by serving as the HokieBird, Virginia Tech’s beloved mascot. He is excited to work with members and use his background to tell the story of Farm Bureau in his new position in the Department of Agriculture, Development, and Innovation. When not doing something agriculture related, he loves playing music, backpacking, rock climbing, and doing anything outdoors with people that he loves. Although Virginia will always be home, he finds a way to go to some faraway place from time to time, having visited 47 states and 7 countries. He can’t wait to see where Farm Bureau takes him!

We hope you will soon be able to meet and work with both Sam and Elijah! We are excited about their joining our team and all that the future brings with their support of our members and all Virginia agriculture and forestry!

Elijah Griles, Commodity Specialist

Farm Bureau’s AgPAC endorses 81 House of Delegates candidates through new endorsement process

RICHMOND—Eighty-one Virginia House of Delegates candidates who support the state’s No. 1 industry have been endorsed by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation AgPAC, the organization’s nonpartisan political action committee.

Changes made this year to Farm Bureau’s procedure for determining political endorsements are expected to help the organization build better relationships with legislators—especially urban ones.

Previously, candidates were endorsed based on recommendations of local farmer committees, which worked well in agricultural districts. However, there were challenges for members evaluating urban races, because the farmer evaluation committees had to determine designations for unknown candidates, or those representing non-agricultural districts.

“We noticed two years ago, our members struggled with how to issue endorsements for someone we don’t really have a track record for,” explained Martha Moore, vice president of VFBF governmental relations.

The new model allowed farmers to educate urban candidates on agricultural issues at a series of in-person roundtable events.

“Our main goal is establishing relationships, but if an urban candidate doesn’t have farm constituencies, they might not know anything about agriculture,” Moore said. “We looked at their committees and picked issues they could influence—agriculture, appropriations, natural resources. And there was a dialogue back and forth.”

Four separate roundtable events were held for Democrat and Republican candidates in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia in 2021. Following the roundtables, farmer participants were asked if they felt the candidates supported Farm Bureau’s positions. Based on that information, AgPAC made recommendations regarding urban endorsements.

“This grassroots evaluation gives us a sense of candidates’ comprehension of the needs and challenges facing Virginia farmers,” said Wayne F. Pryor, VFBF president and chairman of the VFBF AgPAC board of trustees. “Our updated endorsement-designation process is a fresh opportunity to establish deeper connections with both supportive incumbents and urban candidates alike.”

AgPAC was created by Farm Bureau in 1999 and employs in-kind contributions to support candidates who can best support agriculture and Farm Bureau issues. Its trustees believe the following candidates are committed to helping protect agriculture and forestry in Virginia:

Endorsed for Virginia House of Delegates (* indicates incumbent candidates)

1st District – Terry Kilgore* (R)

3rd District – Will Morefield* (R)

4th District – Will Wampler* (R)

5th District – Israel O’Quinn* (R)

6th District – Jeff Campbell* (R)

7th District – Marie March (R)

8th District – Joe McNamara* (R)

9th District – Wren Williams (R)

10th District – Wendy Gooditis* (D)

11th District – Sam Rasoul* (D)

12th District – Jason Ballard (R)

14th District – Danny Marshall* (R)

15th District – Todd Gilbert* (R)

16th District – Les Adams* (R)

17th District – Christopher Head* (R)

18th District – Michael Webert* (R)

19th District – Terry Austin* (R)

20th District – John Avoli* (R)

21st District – Tanya Gould (R)

22nd District – Kathy Byron* (R)

23rd District – Wendell Walker (R)

25th District – Chris Runion* (R)

26th District – Tony Wilt* (R)

27th District – Roxann Robinson* (R)

30th District – Nick Freitas* (R)

28th District – Joshua Cole* (D)

29th District – Bill Wiley* (R)

31st District – Ben Baldwin (R)

32nd District – David Reid* (D)

33rd District – David LaRock* (R)

34th District – Kathleen Murphy* (D)

35th District – Mark Keam* (D)

36th District – Ken Plum* (D)

37th District – David Bulova* (D)

38th District – Kaye Kory* (D)

39th District – Vivian Watts* (D)

41st District – Eileen Filler-Corn* (D)

42nd District – Kathy Tran* (D)

43rd District – Mark Sickles* (D)

44th District – Paul Krizek* (D)

45th District – Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D)

46th District – Charniele Herring* (D)

47th District – Patrick Hope* (D)

48th District – Rip Sullivan* (D)

49th District – Alfonso Lopez* (D)

50th District – Michelle Maldonado (D)

52nd District – Luke Torian* (D)

54th District – Bobby Orrock* (R)

55th District – Buddy Fowler* (R)

56th District – John McGuire* (R)

58th District – Rob Bell* (R)

59th District – Matt Fariss* (R)

60th District – James Edmunds* (R)

61st District – Tommy Wright* (R)

62nd District – Carrie Coyner* (R)

63rd District – Lashrecse Aird* (D)

64th District –Emily Brewer* (R)

65th District – Lee Ware* (R)

66th District – Mike Cherry (R)

67th District – Karrie Delaney* (D)

69th District – Betsy Carr* (D)

70th District – Delores McQuinn*(D)

71st District – Jeffrey Bourne* (D)

73rd District – Rodney Willett (D)

74th District – Lamont Bagby* (D)

75th District – Roslyn Tyler* (D)

76th District – Clint Jenkins* (D)

77th District – Cliff Hayes* (D)

78th District – Jay Leftwich* (R)

80th District – Don Scott* (D)

81st District – Barry Knight* (R)

84th District – Glenn Davis* (R)

88th District – Phillip Scott (R)

89th District – Jay Jones* (D)

91st District – Martha Mugler* (D)

94th District – Shelly Simonds* (D)

96th District – Amanda Batten* (R)

97th District – Scott Wyatt* (R)

98th District – Keith Hodges* (R)

99th District – Margaret Ransone* (R)

100th District – Rob Bloxom* (R)

Media: Contact Pam Wiley, VFBF vice president of communications, at 804-291-6315, or Moore at 804-347-5752.

Candidates for statewide races declare positions on crucial agricultural issues

RICHMOND—Candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general have partnered with Virginia Farm Bureau Federation AgPAC, a nonpartisan political action committee, to present their stances on agricultural issues that align with Farm Bureau policy.

While endorsements will not be not issued for individual candidates for the top spots in state leadership this year, farmers serving on the AgPAC board of trustees met with all six campaigns and briefed them on important agriculture and forestry issues. Candidates were then given the opportunity to present their agriculture and forestry platforms to the full AgPAC board of trustees.

In-kind contributions were offered to candidates who presented positions that help promote specific agriculture and forestry issues aligned with Farm Bureau policy.

Both gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin, embraced the opportunity to share their ideas on issues important to farmers.

McAuliffe’s top priorities included full funding for conservation practices for farmers; delivering universal broadband; and increasing domestic and international markets.

“I am honored to receive the support of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation AgPAC. Agriculture and forestry are the backbone of Virginia’s thriving economy, but they need the commonwealth’s support as we continue to rebuild a stronger post-COVID economy and move Virginia forward. It’s time to take Virginia agriculture and forestry to the next level, and together we will get it done,” McAuliffe said.

Youngkin’s top priorities included full funding for conservation practices for farmers; refraining from mandating unfunded practices; revitalizing the agricultural processing industry for all farms; and expanding exports to create new jobs.

“Virginia’s farms are a critical contributor to our economy and have served as the backbone of our communities for centuries,” Youngkin said. “Virginia is an agricultural leader, and I look forward to working with the Farm Bureau to grow end markets, improve production and profits, and preserve our vital farming heritage.”

Three other statewide candidates agreed to meet with the AgPAC board—Republican lieutenant governor candidate Winsome Sears and candidates for attorney general, Republican Jason Miyares and incumbent Democrat Mark Herring.

“They appreciated the chance to engage in a dialogue with farmers to look for opportunities they may have within their offices, if elected, to help farmers continue to serve at the heart of Virginia’s economy,” said Martha Moore, vice president of VFBF governmental relations. “We look forward to helping these five statewide candidates share their messages on agriculture and forestry issues of importance with farmers across the commonwealth. We believe that this partnership with these candidates will highlight issues important to rural Virginia and help farmers to evaluate the candidates prior to voting on Nov. 2.”

Sears supports fully funding the Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program, or else refraining from mandating practices. She outlined a need for increased funding for Virginia’s land grant universities, and advocated for a tax system that helps family farms continue to thrive from one generation to the next.

Herring wants funding for the BMP programs that will allow the state to be a full partner with farmers in achieving Virginia’s water quality goals. He promotes the utilization of science-based animal husbandry practices for livestock, and recognizes the current state code distinction between companion animals and livestock. He also supports evaluating the presence of utility-scale solar facilities to minimize the impact on prime agricultural lands.

Miyares advocated for the defense of farmers in court against a federal or state regulatory framework that enacts water quality requirements making it unfeasible for farmers to operate. He also supports limiting executive oversight and restricting the expansion of regulatory agencies’ power to develop regulations beyond legislative authority. He stands against changes to state code that would undo the current distinction between companion animals and livestock.

For more information about VFBF AgPAC and a full list of candidates’ positions on agriculture and forestry, visit vafb.com and click Supporting Farmers.
Media: Contact Pam Wiley, VFBF vice president of communications, at 804-291-6315, or Moore at 804-347-5752.