Virginia farmers hear U.S. report

Published 12:15 pm Friday, February 2, 2024

As Virginia farmers advocate for their livelihoods on the grassroots level, interactions with national farm leaders and economists impart perspectives that bring the big picture into focus.

This was evidenced when a group of about 20 farmers, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation leaders, students and other stakeholders recently met with industry experts in Washington.

They toured the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service headquarters where the 2023 crop production report was released.

U.S. soybean and cotton production dropped a bit in 2023, while winter wheats, dry hay and alfalfa showed gains. But corn was king at record highs. A total of 15.3 billion bushels of corn were harvested in 2023, up 12% from 2022.

“It was a surprise the average corn yield increased significantly from the November report,” noted Robert Harper, VFBF grain manager.

Peanut production estimates also were strong in Virginia, but the national average yield was down 270 pounds from 2022.

The Virginia delegation also visited American Farm Bureau Federation offices.

Ryan Yates, AFBF managing director of government affairs, cited findings of a recent poll that indicate Americans overwhelmingly trust farmers, but fewer people trust farming practices.

“That tells us people want to know more about where their food comes from, how it’s produced and the ways we do what we do,” Yates continued.

Joe Gilson, an AFBF government affairs director, shared a farm bill update. The omnibus spending package that funds food assistance and other crucial programs is debated and passed every five years and is currently delayed in Congress.

“The farm bill will be kicked back a few weeks,” Gilson said. “But the chairman thinks he can find some extra money for the safety nets like crop insurance. And I think our Farm Bureaus can get these folks to come together by saying, ‘Hey, we need a farm bill, we need it this year, and we need it to be bipartisan.’”

A farm bill is needed by mid-year, Gilson said. After that, lawmakers head back to home districts for campaign season.

A delayed farm bill is nothing new, added AFBF senior director of government affairs David Salmonsen, reminding the group that the 2012 Farm Bill finally passed in 2014.