Female Farmers’ Involvement in Agriculture is Growing

The number of women in farming is on the rise.

The U.S. Census of Agriculture, which has been surveying the gender, race and ethnic origin of principal farm operators since 2007, reported more than 36% of American farmers were women in 2017. Twenty-nine percent were principal operators, and 78% of all female producers said they are involved in daily decisions.

In Virginia, female farmers are involved with 23,575 farms, and they are principal operators of 16,456.

Joanne Jones, who manages her husband’s family’s 450-acre, third-generation Dark Leaf Farm in Appomattox County, is one of them.

“I feel like women always have played more of a role than what’s been recognized,” she said.

In addition to harvesting and planting soybeans, tobacco and wheat, Jones handles the farm’s paperwork.

“If you’re the one doing that, you know what’s making money and what’s not—what’s losing, what’s gaining.”

Jones, who also works as a full-time Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Charlotte County, admits it was difficult getting people to take her seriously in the early days, but six years as president of Appomattox County Farm Bureau helped her build respect.

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Faces of Virginia Farming: Featuring Richlands Dairy and Creamery

Virginia Farm Bureau unveiled a new webinar series, called “Faces of Virginia Farming”, on April 8th.  Behind every piece of food and fiber is a person with a unique story, and Faces of Virginia Farming gives the public an opportunity to hear directly from these farmers and connect with the people who grow what they eat and wear.

In partnership with the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, the first episode featured the inspiring story of Richlands Dairy and Creamery, located in Blackstone, VA. Coley Drinkwater and TR Jones shared how, in order to continue the family operation, they expanded their dairy farm to include a creamery. To give back to the community, Richlands has followed through on a pledge to donate 1 gallon of milk for every 10 gallons purchased.

Richlands has the mindset of, “if you want people to support you, you have to support the people around you, as well,” said TR.

In addition to Coley and TR, Eddie Oliver with the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, Senator Ghazala Hashmi, and Delegate Wendy Gooditis joined a panel discussion.

Eddie provided an overview of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks and its mission. For more information on the Federation, visit their website.

Senator Hashmi and Delegate Gooditis spoke to the impact recent legislation establishing the Virginia Agriculture Food Assistance Program and Fund will have on communities and farmers.

If you missed the episode, you can watch it here. To stay informed of future events, follow Virginia Farm Bureau Federation on Facebook or email facesofvafarming@vafb.com with questions.

Farm Bureau Seeks Dynamic Entrepreneurs with Solutions to Today’s Farm and Rural Challenges

The American Farm Bureau Federation, in partnership with Farm Credit, has opened online applications for the 2022 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. This national business competition showcases U.S. startup companies that are providing solutions to challenges faced by America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Farm Bureau will award $165,000 in startup funds provided by sponsors Farm CreditBayer Crop ScienceFarm Bureau BankFarm Bureau Financial ServicesFMC Corporation and John Deere.

Launched in 2015 as the first national competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs, the Challenge continues to identify the next ag entrepreneurs to watch and supports innovation essential to Farm Bureau member businesses and communities.

For this eighth year of the competition, Farm Bureau is seeking entrepreneurs who are addressing either traditional or new/emerging challenges. The 2021 Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year, Riley Clubb with Harvust, addressed traditional challenges by developing a software platform that helps farmers successfully hire, train and communicate with employees. The competition is also open to entrepreneurs tackling new challenges that surfaced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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U.S. Agriculture Groups Urge Action as Trade Relationship with Mexico Declines

Photo by Hugo Entrepreneur on Pexels.com

A rapid deterioration of the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship is causing alarm within the U.S. agricultural sector, and industry groups are voicing concerns.

Dozens of leading food and agriculture associations, including American Farm Bureau Federation, recently sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, urging action to address issues undermining the trade relationship with Mexico.

Among the groups’ concerns are a ban on glyphosate and genetically modified corn; increased obstacles to dairy trade; an organic export certification requirement; a state-sponsored campaign disparaging U.S. corn sweeteners; barriers to new biotechnology applications; meat industry market access implications; a potato export ban; and a new labeling regulation. The letter said these issues, along with a high number of investigations on Mexico’s fresh produce exports to the U.S., hamper domestic competitiveness.

Mexico is within Virginia’s top five markets, as it is for most U.S. states, said Vilsack in remarks at the March 30 Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade, an annual event sponsored in part by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

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Governor Northam Awards $270,000 in Farmland Preservation Grants

Governor Ralph Northam has announced $270,000 from the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund will be awarded to five localities, providing critical matching funds to permanently preserve working farmland through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs. PDR programs empower localities to limit development on priority farm and forestlands and provide an incentive to landowners who voluntarily want to protect their working lands.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been reminded how important Virginia’s farms are to getting food into our stores and onto our tables,” said Governor Northam.  “In addition to being a vital part of our history, agriculture is central to our growing economy and maintaining the outstanding quality of life we enjoy in our Commonwealth. Partnering with local governments to conserve critical working landscapes and protect our abundant natural resources is key to maximizing the conservation impact of state funds.”

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Wildlife Regulation Proposals on Hunting, Trapping, and Possession of Terrestrial Wildlife: Public Comment Period on Proposed Regulation Amendments

Following a public scoping period where ideas on changes to wildlife regulations were reviewed, the Virginia Board of Wildlife Resources proposed amendments to Virginia’s regulations governing hunting, trapping, and terrestrial wildlife. A public comment period is currently ongoing through May 10, 2021.

After hearing public comment on the proposed amendments at the May 27, 2021 Board meeting, the Board anticipates adopting final regulation amendments that will be effective on August 1, 2021 for the 2021–2022 hunting and trapping seasons. You can read the proposed changes and provide feedback here.

Farm Bureau members can also contact Stefanie Taillon at stefanie.taillon@vafb.com or 804-363-9505 with questions or concerns.

USDA Expands Farmer Eligibility for COVID-19 Assistance

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced March 24 more than $12 billion in relief funding will be distributed to farmers through the Pandemic Assistance for Producers program.

The initiative will provide $6 billion to establish new programming to assist farmers who didn’t qualify for previous rounds of aid through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program or similar programs.

USDA also announced it will resume accepting applications for CFAP 2 payments for at least 60 days beginning April 5. Under existing CFAP regulations, more than $6.5 billion will be issued to cattle farmers and producers of eligible flat-rate crops and price trigger commodities.

USDA estimates the new round of payments will reach over 970,000 farmers. More information about commodity eligibility under CFAP 2 can be found on USDA’s CFAP webpage.

“The pandemic affected all of agriculture, but many farmers did not benefit from previous rounds of pandemic-related assistance,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Our new USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative will help get financial assistance to a broader set of producers, including to socially disadvantaged communities, small and medium-sized producers, and farmers and producers of less traditional crops.”

Livestock farmers who were enrolled in CFAP 1, and eligible crop producers who already are enrolled in CFAP 2, do not need to reapply for payments. Each group will receive automatic payments through the PAP program.

For more program details, producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency office or visit farmers.gov/pandemic-assistance.

Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, noted Virginia cattle farmers with approved CFAP applications will receive supplemental payments beginning April 1.

Local row crop farmers, he said, can expect supplemental payments of $20 per acre sometime in April.

“These additional payments are intended to offset cattle and row crop farmers’ continued revenue losses after the first round of CFAP payments concluded in the fall,” Banks said. “For the other programs receiving improved funding from USDA, the intention is to help aid farmers’ production and delivery of specialty crops like fruits and vegetables.”