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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring, and Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler today applauded Congressional approval of the federal Farm Bill, which recently passed the United States House and Senate with strong bipartisan support.
“Support for Virginia’s farmers is vital to building opportunity and creating prosperity in every corner of our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “I commend the House and Senate for approving the federal Farm Bill, which includes provisions that increase funding for key programs that support Virginia agriculture and forestry, the Commonwealth’s largest private industries. The Farm Bill also makes additional resources available for our Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts and I appreciate the work of the Chesapeake Bay Commission to ensure this bill aligns with our clean water goals. From increasing protections for agricultural products to giving our farmers the ability to grow and sell industrial hemp, this legislation is an important win for Virginia.”
In recent years, Virginia farmers have faced a host of challenges, from low commodity prices and farm income, to frayed trade relations with key markets, and a general atmosphere of uncertainty. Significant provisions in the federal Farm Bill include investments in risk management and protection for farmers and agricultural commodities, continued funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and increased investment in rural broadband. The Farm Bill also legalizes the production of industrial hemp, giving Virginia farmers access to an emerging market that was previously only authorized for research purposes.
“The Farm Bill sets the course for agriculture, forestry, and conservation policy at the federal level, and producers depend on its provisions to make business decisions and implement conservation practices,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “This new Farm Bill is a significant win for Virginia farmers and forest landowners, and I appreciate the good work of Congress in getting the bill across the finish line.”
“Responsible land stewardship is critical to addressing many of our conservation challenges,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “The support Congress has provided in this bill will help us protect wildlife habitat and water quality across our Commonwealth and our country.”
The bill’s conservation title expands efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, and the work of the USDA will augment and complement the work being done in Virginia. These programs, such as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, help build partnerships with farmers and forest landowners to implement effective conservation practices.
This Farm Bill does several key things that will benefit Virginia’s farmers and forest landowners. It maintains crucial commodity support programs that serve as an important safety net for farmers, including a new Dairy Margin Coverage program for dairy producers. The bill also recognizes the important role of international trade to the agricultural economy by continuing support for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) trade programs. Furthermore, the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, which provides funding for important research for specialty crops, is extended for five years, and there is a provision that expands farmers’ ability to participate in the growing industrial hemp market. Finally, the bill establishes new animal disease preparedness programs, which are important to several Virginia commodities, such as poultry, beef, and pork. In the forestry title, the bill expands the authority of states to keep revenues from Unites States Forest Service Good Neighbor Authority agreements, in which the Virginia Department of Forestry is already participating.
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