Opinion — Budget provides help for agriculture, forestry

Published 10:11 am Saturday, August 20, 2022

Agriculture and forestry are the first and third largest sectors in Virginia industry, respectively. With this in mind, Governor Youngkin’s budget will address critical issues these industries face with a much needed influx of additional state funding.

The primary purpose of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is to promote the economic growth of our agricultural sector. One way that VDACS fulfills this role is by providing inspectional oversight of meat processing facilities. The governor’s budget will distribute the necessary funding to recruit the highly qualified individuals needed to carry out this important step to ensure food safety in the Commonwealth.

VDACS’s Office of Veterinary Services and Office of Laboratory Services provide animal disease control and prevention efforts. The governor’s budget also intends to increase the pay for government employed veterinarians. This will hopefully close the gap between veterinarians employed in the private versus public sectors.

The governor’s additional funding to VDACS will also combat dangerous threats to Virginia’s crops and natural resources. This affects our area locally as we continue to battle the spread of the invasive spotted lanternfly. The spotted lanternfly poses a particular threat to the peach, apple, grape, and wine industries. Albemarle County and the Cities of Charlottesville and Lynchburg are already under quarantine, and just within the last two weeks, the first confirmed sighting of the spotted lanternfly has been reported in Bedford County.

According to VDACS, citizens can help mitigate the spread of the spotted lanternfly through several preventative measures including:

• Killing the insect at any life stage

• Inspecting items that have been stored outdoors before moving them elsewhere

• Careful management of Trees of Heaven on your property (Tree of Heaven is the preferred food source for the insect)

• Keeping windows and doors shut

• Avoiding parking or storing items near trees and shrubs

• Reporting sightings of the insect to the Virginia Cooperative Extension (this is especially important for areas not already under quarantine)

Help coming for forestry

Virginia’s Department of Forestry will also be receiving funding to fight wildfires, grow more tree seedlings and plant more trees in urban communities.

Nationally, the Farm Service Agency is seeking to assist farmers and livestock producers further by making improvements to its Livestock Indemnity Program. LIP provides benefits to livestock owners that have suffered deaths due to unforeseeable events such as catastrophic weather events (i.e. tornados, excessive heat, winter storms, etc.) and certain predation losses.

To better assist farmers with recouping losses due to death and injury, it has recently been announced that LIP payments for livestock under 250 pounds will more than double in most cases. These updated payment rates are effective immediately and will also be applied retroactively all the way back to January 1, 2022.

In upcoming health-related events, Campbell County and the City of Lynchburg are two of 15 areas that have been selected to participate in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants will be selected randomly and notified via USPS, so please keep an eye out for any notices that arrive to your mailbox. NHANES is conducted by the CDC to monitor the health and nutritional status of adults and children across the USA. The Mobile Exam Center will be in the area from August 20 – October 13.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.