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Virginia’s Finest marks 25 years

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va finestGov. Terry McAuliffe today announced that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Virginia’s Finest® program. Developed in 1989 by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the program identifies, differentiates and promotes top-quality agriculture and specialty food and beverage products.

Buyers and consumers recognize the familiar blue and red “Va check mark” logo and know they are purchasing top quality Virginia-produced and processed products. Today’s announcement kicks off a series of events in 2014 that will highlight the silver anniversary of the program.

Speaking about the silver anniversary recognition, Governor McAuliffe stated, “The Virginia’s Finest® program has enhanced the economic opportunities and success of Virginia’s specialty food companies, processors, and agriculture producers. Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry and the Virginia’s Finest® program has helped play a key role in that success by raising the profile of the high quality food and beverage products that are made from the Commonwealth’s diverse agricultural bounty. I am excited to recognize and celebrate the 25th anniversary of this innovative program, which contributes to the Commonwealth’s reputation for being the best state in the nation for doing business, agricultural excellence, entrepreneurialism, and promoting small businesses.”

Governor McAuliffe also issued a proclamation recognizing 2014 as the 25th anniversary of the Virginia’s Finest® program in the Commonwealth of Virginia. First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and Secretary of Agriculture & Forestry Todd Haymore will present today the proclamation to Steven Lynch of Montebello Kitchens, Chair of Virginia’s Specialty Food Advisory Committee, at the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. This popular tradeshow connects buyers representing grocery stores, restaurants and gift shops directly with Virginia small businesses that produce specialty food and beverage products. Almost all of the products at the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo have earned the Virginia’s Finest® designation.

Today, the Virginia’s Finest® program boasts more than 400 participating businesses representing a diverse assortment of specialty food products, including meats, cheeses, peanuts, condiments, confections, baked goods, beverages, sauces, soups and seafood. To discover Virginia’s Finest® offerings, explore a complete list at www.vafinest.com. Participation in the quality-based trademark program is by application and open to all Virginia agricultural producers and food processors who consistently meet specific quality standards. Only Virginia products that meet or exceed quality standards are part of the Virginia’s Finest® program. All authorized Virginia’s Finest® products must be approved by the Virginia’s Finest® Review Committee, which consists of food safety officials and product marketing specialists. The Committee reviews product packaging and labels to ensure products meet state and federal regulations. In the case of most products, the producer must provide proof of its current and valid food safety inspection certificate.

The specialty food industry is a growing sector of the nation’s economy. According to the Specialty Food Association, specialty food is among the fastest-growing industries in the United States, with sales skyrocketing by 22.1 percent between 2010 and 2012. Total U.S. specialty food sales in 2012 topped $85.87 billion.

Established in 1877, VDACS is responsible for more than 60 laws and 70 regulations relating to consumer protection and the promotion of agriculture. According to a 2013 economic impact study conducted by Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, generating more than $52 billion per annum. The industry also provides more than 310,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.

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