Story by Chris Graham
Tim Kaine knows how important agriculture is to the Virginia economy.
CNBC doesn’t – but we can forgive them.
I mean, they’re based in New York.
This story begins back this summer when Forbes magazine had given Virginia the title of being the best state for business in America. That same week, CNBC announced that it had done its own analysis, and guess who it made #1?
Gov. Kaine got the word before anybody else – because CNBC wanted to interview Kaine live the day of the announcement.
“I could see a little monitor of what was on as they were starting to interview me from afar. They were interviewing me from a studio I guess in New York. And they started the introduction into Virginia, and they showed all these sites in Virginia – talking about Virginia, the best state for business. And they showed the port, and they showed computer companies and the high-tech businesses,” Kaine said during a visit to the Shenandoah Valley last week.
“And when the host of the program kind of led into the interview, they said, Well, governor, obviously Virginia is the best state for business because you’ve got such a thriving technology sector. Isn’t that the secret of Virginia’s economic success?” Kaine recounted.
“And I said, Well, I’ve been watching the pictures you have up here, and you haven’t shown Virginia’s number-one business? And they said, We thought it was technology. No, by a longshot – and there’s no close second – agriculture/forestry is the number-one business sector in Virginia, and it always has been, and if you look out into the future, I don’t know that there’s going to be a day in our foreseeable future where it won’t be. It is the largest and most important sector of the Virginia economy,” Kaine said.
That’s one reason Kaine was in the Valley last week – to mark the grand opening of a new state-of-the-art agriculture lab office in Harrisonburg that will serve producers up and down the western half of Virginia.
The former Richmond mayor isn’t just talking the ag talk – he has for a long time walked the walk, including committing his time to help the Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative get off the ground in Rockingham County in 2004.
“The thing that I think we’re focused on the most right now is trying to do things to promote the success of the small family farms, doing what we can to bring young farmers into the mix, and then especially, I have a very ambitious land-preservation goal, and part of that goal is going to be achieved by helping farmers make sure that they can keep their land in working landscapes and not sell land for subdivisions or for development,” Kaine told reporters after the grand-opening ceremony last week.
“That usually involves some sort of incentive. We have a good tax-incentive program that farmers can use to try to preserve their acreage and working farmland – and we also have some budgetary allocations where we can purchase development rights from farmers. Those are strategies that they can use to make their farms economically viable and not have to succumb to pressures to develop their land,” Kaine said.
“Obviously one of the virtues of Virginia is that we have a very balanced economy. We’ve got a strong agriculture sector, we’ve got a strong technology sector, got strong manufacturing. And it’s that balance that really helps our state. But we need to always remember that ag and forestry is number one,” Kaine said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.