Farm Bureau leaders discuss forestry issues in Galax
Virginia’s forest custodians and timber growers gathered for a day of dialogue, policy discussion and a walk in the woods Sept. 1 as part of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Forestry Advisory Committee meeting in Grayson County.
Virginia Department of Forestry officials led a tour of white pine growth in Mathews State Forest, shared industry updates and offered input on emerging issues, including solar facilities, erosion control, forestland conservation models, Chesapeake Bay preservation and more.
“This committee likes to get out to look, learn and talk, which hopefully influences our policy discussions,” said meeting organizer Martha Moore, VFBF vice president of governmental relations.
State Forester Rob Farrell explained the importance of sustaining incentives to enhance hardwood forest resources—promoting agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals.
“Thanks to Farm Bureau and other partners, we got the $350,000 worth of state cost-sharing for the hardwood incentive programs for landowners, which is getting ready to launch,” Farrell said. “As we’re working on our budget items, I hope we can direct more funding to forestry, natural resources and water quality.”
Ed Zimmer, deputy state forester, said the DOF’s Reforestation of Timberlands Program is celebrating 50 years, and still going strong. In fiscal year 2021, more than 1,000 Virginia landowners received RT cost-share funds on 44,000 net acres.
“Farm Bureau has been a long-time supporter of us getting full funding for the general-fund portion of RT,” Zimmer said. “This year we have over $2.4 million in incentives available for landowners.”
Farrell added that urban forestry is another area of emphasis for the agency, addressing the health effects of “urban heat islands,” which lack shade trees. He also discussed a recent drop in record-high lumber prices, acknowledging that sawtimber is finally starting to fetch a better rate for landowners.
“Increased mill production, along with housing construction levels, will impact what lumber prices do,” Farrell reported. “We will have an overabundance of sawtimber for a long time, certainly another decade.”
Bill Osl, a Cumberland County timber grower who represents farmers in Central Virginia on the VFBF board of directors, led the meeting with fellow board member Richard Sutherland of Grayson County. During the meeting, VFBF’s forestry policy language was examined and updated with input from governmental relations staff and committee members.
“We had good energy and participation,” Osl said. “That’s what we’re about.”