McAuliffe spoke Dec. 3 to several hundred farmers at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Hot Springs. He opened by thanking them “for all that you do to build the new Virginia economy.”
The two industries have a combined $70 billion impact on the state’s economy, and McAuliffe noted he will introduce his overall plan for economic growth in the commonwealth on Dec. 5 at an event in Williamsburg. “I can assure you that ag and forestry will be key components of the plan that I will unveil.”
On the current economic front, “we face severe headwinds in the commonwealth of Virginia,” the governor said, noting that U.S. Department of Defense spending cuts have been painful, particularly in Northern Virginia, and that the effect of federal sequestration could be devastating. Industries like agriculture and forestry, he noted, are “essential elements” of reducing Virginia’s economic reliance on the federal government. “We work every day on these issues, and we need to make sure we are prepared for the future.”
McAuliffe cited numerous trade missions that he has orchestrated since his inauguration, and shared a lengthy list of countries with whose ambassadors he has met to nurture trade. “I want to see Virginia-grown products all over the globe,” he said. He called the lifting of a Chinese ban on poultry imports from Virginia “a huge win” for the state.
He also reiterated his goal for Virginia agriculture exports to break the $3 billion mark this year and for the state to become the “East Coast capital” for agricultural trade. Currently, he noted, “we’re third. I don’t believe in being third, folks.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that U.S. agricultural trade set a new record, showing a 7.8 percent increase over 2013. “There is no reason that we can’t do that in Virginia as well,” McAuliffe said. “I’d like to see us meet or exceed the pace of the U.S. government.”
Expansion of the Panama Canal is scheduled to be completed in 2016, the governor noted, and the Port of Virginia is currently the only port on the U.S. East Coast that can accommodate the larger vessels that will be passing through the canal. “That is a strategic advantage for Virginia,” he said. “We have a four- or five-year head start” over port cities like New York and Baltimore. “Let’s fill those supertankers back up with agriculture and forestry products from Virginia.”
With 128,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia’s farms and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply. View more convention news as it becomes available atVaFarmBureau.org/NewsVideo/