TOP STORY, Dec. 10, 2013
VFBF delegates leave most policy intact
By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
RICHMOND, Va. — More than 600 Virginia farmers and agriculture industry representatives gathered in the state’s capital last week for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention, setting policy for the coming legislative session.
From the attendees, 245 Farm Bureau members were registered as voting delegates, discussing a wide range of farming topics.
Only a few proposed resolutions garnered discussion as the delegates moved at a brisk pace in approving and renewing the group’s policy.
Proposed language concerning uranium mining in Virginia, an issue that has come up for debate the last few years, compelled the most people to offer comments and amendments.
A moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia has been imposed since 1982.
Farm Bureau has renewed its support for the moratorium for years but a proposed resolution from Pittsylvania County included support for efforts to write site-specific regulatory standards for the safe mining and milling of uranium in Virginia.
Speaking for the proposed language, Jay Calhoun, Pittsylvania County Farm Bureau president said Farm Bureau should be proactive about resolving the issue.
“Let’s be an organization that’s seeking answers, that’s seeking science,” he said.
Opposition came mostly from Orange County delegates who said they have been told by experts the mere formation of regulatory standards would in effect lift the moratorium.
After calling for a hand vote, VFBF President Wayne Pryor announced the proposed resolution did not pass but in a separate vote the delegate body continued its support for the moratorium. A proposal to support a study of selling locally grown food at state rest areas to support local agriculture was offered, originating in Hanover County.
Leigh Pemberton, president of Hanover County Farm Bureau said the study would look at another way to get farmer’s products in front of potential consumers.
“We need to promote agriculture any way we can,” he said. “A lot of tourists go through these rest stops. We just felt like there’s a lot of opportunity missed.”
After some discussion, the resolution passed with minimal opposition but in the afternoon session, the resolution was brought back to the floor with an amendment offered and passed to replace language about selling food with promoting local agriculture products throughout pamphlets.
Other proposed resolutions approved by the delegates included:
• Support for adequate secure and stable funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts and implementing best management practices. This is also one of Virginia Farm Bureau’s Critical Legislative Issues which were released last month.
• Support for a federal aquaculture checkoff program for research and promotion of the U.S. aquaculture industry;
• Support to use 30 percent of the tariff on imported seafood to promote U.S. farm raised seafood;
• Support for funding restoration for the issuance of migratory bird depredation permits to aquaculture facilities;
• Support for the use of biotechnology that benefits consumers and increases the marketing of agriculture products and opposed the mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods;
• Support for moving the cotton planting deadline from May 15 to May 25 for crop insurance purposes;
• Support for the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission to promote agriculture initiatives to include value-added beef, develop new industries in south side and southwest Virginia and help existing industries expand job opportunities;
• Support for the farmer’s option to obtain crop insurance based on a tract-by-tract basis under Farm Service Agency records or from consolidating FSA tracts into one number;
• Support for the development of funding for advanced and dual enrollment agriculture classes at the high school level;
• Support for requiring legislators to demonstrate benefit-to-cost advantage when proposing food, water or environmental regulation;
• Support for the expansion of a trauma database to study the impact of agriculture-related injuries in rural populations;
• Support the removal of black vultures from the list of birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Until it is removed, the Farm Bureau supports expedited depredation permits and the elimination of permit fees;
• Support the exemption of Army Corp or Engineers regulations on the construction of on-farm impoundments;
• Opposition to unauthorized aerial surveillance of a farm or property without permission from the landowner; and
• Support for the study of how adjoining states have raised rates for farmers selling on-farm generated electricity to power utilities.