Farmers from across the state traveled to downtown Richmond Jan. 23 ahead of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Legislative Day, in preparation for in-person meetings with legislators. The event gives farmers an opportunity to urge action on agricultural issues important to them.
Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, chair of the Virginia House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, was the keynote speaker at Sunday’s dinner, preceding a legislative briefing for Farm Bureau members.
“Virginia Farm Bureau has been very fortunate to consider Del. Ware a friend of agriculture for over two decades,” said VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor as he introduced the speaker. “We are thrilled to continue working with him in his new role as chair of the house agriculture committee.”
Just 10 days into his job as ag committee chairman, delegates are considering a deluge of bills, Ware said, including funding for agricultural best management practices.
“Of the topics I see coming up, I can report some good news,” Ware said. “I think ag BMPs will be funded significantly.”
Agriculture and conservation communities have long called for full funding of Virginia’s agricultural BMP cost-share “needs assessment”—a data-driven funding calculation based on water quality goals. The cost-share program supports various conservation practices for crop, grazing and forestlands to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff. Additionally, funding will provide technical assistance for farmers and landowners to implement those conservation practices.
The committee also is looking at solar farm issues, though calling them “farms” is euphemistic, Ware said. Agricultural groups are concerned that large-scale solar facilities may permanently disable the productivity of prime agricultural lands.
Solar panels are great, but they belong on rooftops and brownfields, Ware said, “rather than on top of the finest farm and timber land, which are increasingly being gobbled up by this arena. How do we make a more measured consideration of the growth of solar farming, with this tremendous increase in renewable energy?”
Ware and his staff continue to review the bills assigned to his committee, “but I’m looking forward, very much, to getting input from Farm Bureau. And I look forward to meeting with Farm Bureau members and chatting with them on topics that are most on their minds.”