Virginia Governor signs agriculture and forestry development legislation; two industries have combined economic impact of US$79B, provide more than 500,000 jobs statewide

WEYERS CAVE, Virginia , May 9, 2012 (press release) – Bills Create Ag & Forestry Economic Development Incentive Fund, Place Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry and Technology on VEDP Board –

Both Measures Part of Governor's Jobs and Economic Development Agenda

Virginia Agricultural Exports Hit Record High in 2011


During a visit to Cave View Farm in Weyers Cave today on his "Virginia: Growing Strong" statewide tour, Governor Bob McDonnell signed agriculture and forestry development legislation passed during the recently concluded 2012 session of the General Assembly. All four pieces are part of the Governor's jobs and economic development legislative agenda. The Governor was joined by members of the General Assembly, representatives from the agriculture and forestry industries as well as local economic development associations and chambers of commerce. During the event he signed legislation establishing the Governor's Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund which will function similar to the Governor's Opportunity Fund. He also signed legislation adding the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and the Secretary of Technology as voting members of the board of directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority to increase coordination among economic development entities.

Cave View Farm is a 2,000 acre dairy and crop farm, with 1,100 cows and the highest silo in Virginia, which stands 148 feet high. In 2010, Cave View Farm received the Department of Conservation and Recreation's "Shenandoah Basin Clean Water Award." Governor McDonnell first visited the farm as a candidate for governor in August 2009.

Speaking about the legislation signed today, Governor McDonnell said, "Three years ago we came to this farm to discuss our vision for how to grow Virginia's agricultural and forestry industries to help create more good paying jobs for our citizens. Today, we can point to the results of that work. Virginia agriculture exports reached an all-time high in 2011, as we exported a record $2.35 billion worth of products. Working with the General Assembly, we've significantly increased international marketing funds to help us capitalize on the tremendous growth opportunities in countries like China and India and other key regions in the global marketplace. These efforts are helping our producers and agribusinesses achieve new successes. Since 2010, we've helped to facilitate deals that have added more than $150 million in new agricultural exports from Virginia, including major new shipments of soybeans and wine to China; livestock to Russia and Canada; and wine, seafood, and specialty foods to the European Union."

Governor McDonnell continued, "All this great news emphasizes the importance of agriculture and forestry to Virginia; they are the state's two largest industries. Together, they have a combined economic impact of $79 billion annually and provide more than 500,000 jobs across the state. But, we can do more to help spur more economic activity in agriculture and forestry. That is one reason we've created the Governor's Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund. This new economic development tool will help incentivize the creation or expansion of businesses that utilize Virginia agricultural and forestry products, thus providing more opportunities particularly in rural areas of the Commonwealth. Recognizing the industries' importance to Virginia's overall economic well-being, we also asked the General Assembly to approve legislation that adds the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, along with the Secretary of Technology, to the board of directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership so that we can further capitalize on agribusiness and technology potential in Virginia - two important and growing industries in the Commonwealth. All of the legislation being signed today will further strengthen our agriculture and forestry industries, create greater coordination and promotion of the industries by Virginia, and help our growers and producers thrive in the Commonwealth. And all of that means more jobs for our citizens."

Delegate R. Steven Landes (R- Augusta) added, "I applaud the Governor's commitment to making agriculture and forestry key components of his overall economic development and jobs creation agenda. Agriculture and forestry are the largest industries in Virginia and a vital part of our economic revitalization and growth going forward. It is critical that we continue to develop and grow our agriculture and forestry industries, as well as provide tools to help current operations succeed. The Governor's Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund will enable us to bring new opportunities to the Commonwealth, as well as help bolster agriculture and forestry's continued growth and prosperity across Virginia. A vibrant agriculture and forestry industry in this state means a stronger economy in Virginia."

Senator Bill Stanley (R-Glade Hill) noted, "We are seeing an agricultural boom in Virginia and the Governor's focus on growing the industry is showing results. With so much exciting news about exports and growth being announced over the last two years, it is further testament that this is a critically important industry in Virginia. By implementing measures that better coordinate economic development entities in the Commonwealth to help grow the agriculture and forestry industries, we will be able to attract new agribusiness to the state and export more of our products and goods to emerging markets. This will lead to new opportunities for the agriculture and forestry communities and result is more record growth of Virginia's largest industries."

Bills Signed Today

HB766 (Landes)/ SB128 (Stanley) - Governor's Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund

Creates the Governor's Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund
The bill establishes an economic development grant and loan program targeted specifically at agricultural and forestry operations.
Despite agriculture and forestry being the two largest industries in the Commonwealth, this legislation is the first to create an economic development incentive targeted specifically at these industries.
AFID is structured much like the Governor's Opportunity Fund, but is specifically designed to accommodate the unique aspects of agriculture and forestry projects.
AFID will provide grants for projects that utilize Virginia grown products in value-added or processing facilities.
These agriculture and forestry value-added or processing facilities can have tremendous impacts on the regions in which they locate.
Areas where these facilities typically locate are rural with higher unemployment
Agriculture is already a core economic driver in the area, so facilities of this kind can build on the region's existing strength.
These facilities have a greater economic ripple effect as a result of growers in the region having a new market in which to sell products.
Farm revenue increases as a result of these facilities
Jobs are created on the farm and in the facility
Greater opportunities to increase farm profitability lead to more farmland preserved
The entire region sees an economic benefit from revenue generated on the farms and at the facility

HB292 (Scott, Ed)/ SB405 (Hanger) - Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority; increases membership of board of directors

Adds the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry (SAF) and the Secretary of Technology (SOT) as voting members of the board of directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority
Legislation continues the Governor's strategy to fully integrate agriculture and forestry, the two largest industries in Virginia, into the broader economic development and job creation efforts of Virginia.
Having SOT on the VEDP board will bring insights regarding emerging technology markets and provide technical insight into the type of infrastructure necessary to support technology adoption.
SAF membership on VEDP board indicates to prospective companies that agriculture and forestry interests are important parts of Virginia's economic development efforts.
As a VEDP board member, SAF will play an even greater role in shaping the programs and policies which will further investment and job creation in agribusiness and related sectors.
Technology remains an economic engine in the Commonwealth and SOT's presence on the VEDP board will provide valuable opportunities to leverage expansion/relocation activities in the IT sector into valuable job opportunities.

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