Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: September 10, 2019
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alenaa Yarmosky, | Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Elaine Lidholm,, (804) 786-7686

Governor Northam Announces Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund Planning Grant Awarded to Russell County

Funding will support study of potential meat processing facility; project is part of effort to diversify economic base, support area livestock producers

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that a planning grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund has been awarded to Russell County to study bringing a meat processing facility to the county. The feasibility study, which will be conducted by Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development, will include a market analysis and business plan for a new facility serving area livestock producers. This project is part of a larger effort by Russell County to diversify its economic base and to develop a Regional Agricultural Industrial Park.

“My administration is committed to rural economic development, and that means providing localities the necessary tools to support the growth of their agriculture and forestry sectors and diversify their economies to best suit their needs,” said Governor Northam. “With this project, Russell County is taking a proactive role in identifying new economic opportunities that build on Southwest Virginia’s rich agricultural assets and pursuing initiatives that will have a lasting positive impact in the region.”

Governor Northam is awarding an AFID Planning Grant of $8,750 for the study, which is leveraging an additional $26,250 from Russell County and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. Since 2013, AFID Planning Grant totaling $816,232 have been awarded to 40 projects in 59 unique localities across the Commonwealth. 

“It is great to see localities continuing to use the Governor’s AFID planning grant program to assist their efforts to integrate agriculture and forestry into their overall economic development plan,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I applaud Russell County for seeking to determine the feasibility of bringing new processing capacity to the region and exploring how best to assist our cattle farmers in capturing even more value for their products.”  

The planning grants are part of the Governor’s AFID program, an economic development tool for agriculture and forestry value-added or processing projects. AFID planning grants are available to political subdivisions of the Commonwealth who have expressed interest in growing or developing their agriculture and forestry industries.

“Russell County has made agriculture a centerpiece of our economic development strategy and through this project hope to make it a centerpiece of our industrial park,” said Russell County Administrator Lonzo Lester. “A new meat processing facility would supercharge the region’s already strong cattle industry, creating new jobs, investment, and market opportunities up and down the value chain. We are grateful for the Commonwealth’s support of this project and its partnership in supporting our agricultural producers.”

“This is welcome news and I commend the Governor for his support,” said Delegate Will Morefield. “Agriculture is vital to our region and I am proud to have a proven record of being one of the strongest advocates for agriculture and economic development in Southwest Virginia. This is another example of how effective government can be when Democrats and Republicans work together. It is my hope the study results will be favorable, giving us an opportunity to fully support this project.”

“Agriculture is a major economic driver in our region, and these state dollars help leverage critical resources to study, and hopefully develop, new opportunities here at home that create jobs and enhance access to markets,” said Delegate Todd Pillion. “It’s important that we continue to invest in agriculture as a means of diversifying and strengthening Southwest Virginia’s economy.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) administers the AFID program, and planning grant applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Successful funding requests will demonstrate a clear need, a proposed solution, strong local government support and the involvement of the agriculture and forestry community. For more information, please visit the VDACS website.

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