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McAuliffe remains intent on making Virginia the East Coast capital for ag, forestry exports

virginia-newGov. Terry McAuliffe said the commonwealth’s farmers and foresters will help him “take Georgia down,” establishing Virginia as the East Coast capital for agricultural and forestry exports.

“We just moved into second,” McAuliffe told several hundred farmers attending the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Norfolk on Dec. 3. “But I want us to be No. 1.”

McAuliffe thanked the farmers for the work they have done. “When you’re successful, Virginia’s successful.”

Agriculture and forestry have a combined $70 billion impact on the state’s economy, and McAuliffe noted that in the next six weeks he will be announcing new, “exciting” Agricultural and Forestry Industries Development Fund grants that have the potential to help increase that number. The AFID grants help localities integrate agriculture- and forestry-based industries into their overall economic development efforts.

McAuliffe also announced that he will release his proposed budget on Dec. 17. He promised it will be an aggressive one for agriculture. “I think everybody will be happy,” he said.

Additionally, he vowed to continue promoting Virginia agricultural and forestry products around the globe, remarking that he is “probably the most-travelled governor in the U.S.” He said he sat with a group of sommeliers in Paris and convinced them Virginia wines are better than French ones.

McAuliffe recently held 136 meetings during a 9-day trip to India and the Middle East. That trip netted a deal to export Virginia apples to India, and McAuliffe also negotiated the lifting of a ban on poultry exports from Virginia to Oman.

“There is a huge opportunity going forward to sell Virginia products in these countries,” he said.

At home, the governor has hosted 90 foreign ambassadors, and he said they all committed to buying more Virginia agricultural and forestry products.

Earlier this year, McAuliffe announced at the 7th Annual Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade that the state’s agricultural exports reached a record-setting $3.35 billion in 2014. That marked the fourth consecutive year that Virginia set a new record for ag exports.

“I told you 2015 would be an exciting year, but 2016 will be the greatest year for Virginia agriculture in our history,” McAuliffe said.