Column by Chris Graham
For Emmett Hanger, being conversant in agricultural issues isn’t an election-year strategy.
It’s a way of life.
“I think he’s more effective because he understands the realities that we face out here every day,” said Gerald Garber, a Weyers Cave farmer who remembers Hanger, a Mount Solon Republican, from their days as members of the Future Farmers of America organization at Fort Defiance High School back in the 1960s.
“He doesn’t have to study up on what the issues are. He understands by nature, and that’s an important first step, as far as we’re concerned out here,” said Garber on Wednesday.
Garber’s dairy farm served as the backdrop for a news conference called by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation to announce its support for Hanger’s re-election campaign.
“I think you all realize how lucky you are to have Emmett. We just wanted to say that we feel the same way,” said Susan Rubin, the assistant director for governmental relations with the Richmond-based farm-bureau federation.
Rubin told a group of a dozen farmers from Augusta and Rockingham counties at the Garber farm for the news conference that the farm bureau has “leaned on Emmett Hanger’s support through some pretty tough times.”
“Emmett has consistently taken on some controversial issues on our behalf,” Rubin said, citing among them his work with a state commission looking at ways to reform Virginia’s tax-collection structure, which Rubin said would have a substantial impact on the farm community by reducing the real-estate tax burden on farmers.
“We’re happy to endorse Emmett on our behalf and on the behalf of producers across the state,” Rubin said.
The noble fight
Hanger said he will continue to work for the interests of farmers in the Old Dominion – on tax issues and otherwise.
He said he supports the institution of purchase-of-development rights programs to allow those in the ag community to insulate themselves from the intrusion of residential development in open-space areas.
“We need to identify more funding sources to make these programs viable,” Hanger said of PDR programs, in which government entities purchase from farmers their land-development rights in perpetuity.
PDR programs are in vogue in Virginia and throughout the Mid-Atlantic – most notably in Maryland.
“Whatever the issue is, I promise to do my part to ensure that government does what it can to be helpful, and not a hindrance, in every regard,” Hanger said.