Virginia Agriculture

Agriculture and forestry, Virginia’s two largest industries, have a combined economic impact of $79 billion and provide more than 500,000 jobs in the state, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In 2012, the state launched a grant program for economic development that will specifically support projects for these two industries.

New Funds for Agribusinesses

In 2012, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell released guidelines for the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) grant fund, which was part of his jobs creation and economic development agenda.

The $2-million AFID fund stretches over a two-year period. Larger grants expand or attract new processing and value-added facilities that use Virginia-grown products. Smaller grants assist localities to improve their agribusiness economic-development efforts.

The governor and Todd Haymore, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry, want to give domestic economic development projects an opportunity to succeed.

“Working with stakeholders, local governments and our colleagues at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, we sought to design a program that would locate job-creating facilities in Virginia that would also help to increase on-farm revenue for producers in the region,” Haymore says.

The grant program ties business incentives to encourage expanding processing facilities to purchase a certain percentage of Virginia-grown product, he says.

“In this fashion, we create a new market for producers while also providing incentives for business facilities that bring capital investment and jobs creation to the Commonwealth,” Haymore says.

Virginia Exports

Increasing Exports

McDonnell also made increasing the amount of agricultural and forestry exports a key component of his overall economic development and jobs creation plans. Haymore says these exports from Virginia reached an all-time high in 2011 when more than $2.35 billion were shipped out of Virginia ports.

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“The governor recognizes that increasing agricultural and forestry product exports are vital to the economic health of Virginia’s economy, both on the farm and off,” Haymore says. “For example, according to a USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] study, for every $1 in exports there is a $1.40 return to the state from which the export originates. That return goes all the way from the port of Virginia to the family farm.”

McDonnell also looks for ways to lift restrictions on trade in agricultural and forestry products that harm Virginia producers.

“During his term, the governor has worked with USDA and the United States Trade Representative officials, as well as Chinese officials, to help lift the import ban on Virginia hardwood logs into China,” Haymore says.

This almost year-long ban cost Virginia producers approximately $20 million, which is a conservative estimate, Haymore says.

“We have assisted Virginia-based companies with new agriculture and forestry export deals valued at more than $200 million thus far and expect to see $500 million in contracts for 2012 crops,” he adds.

The governor’s office also has secured new agricultural research and development grants to the state’s institutions of higher education. Haymore says those grants go toward research, development and applied commercialization of specialty crops.

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