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."