Lawmakers focus on rural issues during roundtable discussion

Published 3:48 pm Thursday, September 8, 2022

Six state delegates and dozens of Farm Bureau women made some headway on issues impacting rural Virginians at a recent legislative roundtable event at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Women’s Leadership Conference.

The roundtable discussions, held Aug. 27 in Harrisonburg, encouraged lawmakers representing both local and urban districts in the Virginia House of Delegates to learn more about issues relevant to farmers and rural residents. Among the issues discussed were farmland preservation and solar facilities.

“If we can learn how to talk to each other, we can solve a lot more of our problems as a whole in the commonwealth,” said Martha Moore, senior vice president of VFBF governmental relations. “Thanks to the Women’s Leadership Program for providing these opportunities. After all, 36% of U.S. farms are owned and operated by women!”

LOSS OF FARMLAND IMPACTS FAMILIES

Kelly Robinson of Craig County Farm Bureau asked Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Boyce, about the loss of farmland and opportunities for young farmers, who could lease available farmland that may be sold for development.

“A lot of our young folks don’t have resources behind them to start fresh on their own,” Robinson said.

Gooditis was familiar with the issue.

“Who can go out and buy $2 million worth of farmland when they’re just 26 and want to get started?” she asked, adding that she has followed through on her pledge to fight for farmland preservation funding in the state budget.

“Last year was the first year they gave me more,” she reported. “I’m asking for $10 million; they gave me $750,000. Am I happy? No. But it’s more than they were giving!”

TAKING FARMLAND OUT OF PRODUCTION

By 2050, 100% of Virginia’s electricity will be produced from carbon-free sources. Del. Kathy Tran, D-Springfield, was asked about rural energy initiatives like solar facilities that can take prime farmland permanently out of production.

“We need to have a commitment in Virginia to make this transition equitably. How do we do it in a way that has the least negative impacts for farmers, ag and forestry?” Tran asked. “I think it’s important that the state isn’t making those decisions for localities. Instead, we must partner with you to get the resources you need.”

Other roundtable delegates included David Reid, D-Ashburn; Chris Runion, R-Bridgewater; Briana Sewell, D-Woodbridge; and Tony Wilt, R-Harrisonburg.