Delegates who farm help educate their non-farming colleagues

state-capitol2Delegates who farm said that work affords them a unique understanding of legislation that stands to affect Virginia’s farmers and rural communities.

“Until it is your blood, sweat, tears and money, you do not fully understand the situation of a farmer,” said Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, who has been a hog and grain producer and forest owner since 1975. “This is why we have citizen legislators, so they can have day-to-day experience as citizens and not politicians.”

Knight, who has been a member of the General Assembly since 2009 and also serves as Virginia Beach Farm Bureau’s vice president, said Farm Bureau provides a strong voice to help bridge the gap between farmers and legislators who do not have farming backgrounds.

Legislative support of agricultural issues is an important function of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, and it helps that more than half a dozen Virginia delegates are farmers.

Del. Robert Bloxom, R-Mappsville, an aquaculturist on the Eastern Shore, said assembly members with agricultural experience are sought out by other legislators for information regarding bills that would affect farmers.

“Other legislators look to us for answers, which is good, because if they seek information elsewhere, that source may not have the farmers’ interest at heart,” said Bloxom, who has raised oysters and clams for about 20 years.

Del. James Edmunds, R-Halifax, agreed, saying colleagues without an agricultural background “lean upon those of us that do to explain how certain issues will affect our rural lifestyles.” Edmunds operates a Halifax County beef cattle, grain and tree farm and has served in the legislature for six years.

“I believe that it is important for non-ag members of the General Assembly to hear from the farmers when issues arise that they may not understand,” he said.

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