Three local projects in Fauquier, Buckingham, and Charles City counties and one regional partnership consisting of the Commonwealth Regional Council, and Appomattox, Buckingham, and Cumberland counties, have been awarded more than $61,000 to support the growth of agricultural and forestry projects in the Commonwealth. The AFID planning grant program encourages local governments to promote agriculture and forestry and incorporate the needs of these important industries into their long-term strategic economic development planning efforts.
Speaking today about the planning grant awards, Governor McAuliffe said, “In my strategic plan to help grow and diversify Virginia’s economy, it is essential to ensure that two of the Commonwealth’s largest private economic drivers, agriculture and forestry, are a major part of our efforts, especially in rural areas. Using our greatest resources to support local efforts and strengthen these critical industries is an important component of my economic development strategy as we work to build a New Virginia Economy. I applaud the leadership in Fauquier, Charles City, Buckingham, Cumberland and Appomattox for exploring how best to leverage their agricultural assets for future job creation opportunities.”
The AFID Planning Grant program was developed in 2012 to encourage local and regional governments to think strategically about how they can better support and integrate agriculture and forestry-based industries into their communities’ overall economic development efforts. The planning grants are part of the larger Governor’s AFID program, a discretionary, performance-based economic development tool specifically tailored for assisting businesses that add value to Virginia-grown agriculture and forestry-related products.
“I am pleased to see the continued use of the Governor’s AFID planning grant program to assist localities to fully integrate agriculture and forestry into their overall economic development and strategic plans,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. “With these four projects, the AFID planning grant program has leveraged more than $465,000 since its inception to support 48 localities interested in building on their agriculture and forestry assets and seeking new initiatives that can have lasting positive impacts for their region.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) administers the AFID program, and planning grant applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the fiscal year. Successful funding requests must demonstrate a clear need, a proposed solution, strong support from local government and the agriculture and forestry community, and the ability to provide cash or in-kind matching funds.
Localities interested in applying may visit http://vdacs.virginia.gov/agribusiness/planning.shtml, or contact AFID Fund Coordinator Stephen Versen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804.786.6911 for more information.
According to a 2013 economic impact study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, agriculture and forestry are two of Virginia’s largest industries with a combined economic impact of $70 billion annually. Agriculture generates more than $52 billion per annum, while forestry generates more than $17 billion. The industries also provide more than 400,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.
More information about the Weldon Cooper Center’s study can be found at www.coopercenter.org/node/2/publications/economic-impacts-agriculture-and-forestry-virginia-revised-2012.
Details on the grant awards are below:
- Project Title: Fauquier County Cost of Community Services Study
Applicant: Fauquier County
Summary: Fauquier County is seeking funding to complete a cost of community services study to obtain a better understanding of the fiscal impacts of various land use categories. This study will be completed by UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and overseen by the County Agricultural Committee. The study will document, among other things, the fiscal impact working agricultural lands offer the County.
- Project Title: Feasibility of Alternative Energy Production Options using Local Agriculture and Forestry Feedstock
Applicant: Buckingham County
Summary: Buckingham County is seeking funding to have an outside consultant conduct a feasibility analysis and planning proposal for alternative energy options for public buildings using local agriculture and forestry feedstock in the County. The study will include an economic feasibility analysis of local government and school buildings for conversion to biomass heating systems, feedstock availability, and a review of policies and ordinances that might assist or impede possible conversion. This effort will develop a template for other communities to follow for evaluating possible conversion of their public buildings to biomass heat.
- Project Title: Buckingham Agricultural Resource Network (BARN)
Applicant: Commonwealth Regional Council in partnership with Appomattox, Buckingham and Cumberland counties
Summary: The Buckingham Cattlemen’s Association, representing 235 producers over 20 counties in Central Virginia, is seeking funding to partner with local government, VDACS and the Tobacco Commission to construct a large, new multi-use facility and outside sales arena that will allow for on-site sale of cattle and hay that will offer substantial cost savings, as well as provide a viable venue for other activities to benefit the broader community. Grant funds will be used for the completion of interior finishes, including the installation of kitchen equipment donated by Buckingham County Schools.
- Project Title: Charles City County Agriculture and Forestry Economic Development Plan
Applicant: Charles City County
Summary: Charles City County is seeking funding to add a robust agriculture and forestry component to their newly launched Economic Development Strategic Plan. Specific issues to be addressed include improving land-use and zoning policies, developing eco- and agri-tourism attractions, expanding their timber industry, and supporting a new wine industry.