Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry discusses priorities with Farm Bureau
Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr stopped by to visit longtime Virginia Farm Bureau Federation friends on April 27.
In a presentation to familiar faces on VFBF’s board of directors, Lohr shared the administration’s main priorities for agriculture and forestry—growing rural Virginia’s economy, marketing more Virginia agricultural products, and watershed conservation efforts.
For agriculture to remain the state’s top industry, “we want to make sure we have a well-trained, well-educated and well-prepared next generation of farmers to come back and take over our farms,” he said.
He acknowledged that dairy farms continue to struggle. A dairy summit will be scheduled this summer to bring farmers and processors together to identify obstacles and solutions. He added that the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund is expected to expand this year, offering incentives to localities and businesses to begin processing Virginia agricultural products.
Virginia’s international exports are ever-expanding, Lohr added, and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services trade representatives are connecting producers with buyers worldwide. At home, the local food movement has gained momentum as VDACS explores enhancing marketing opportunities for smaller-scale farmers.
Three state agencies are working through a list of 120-plus regulations, seeking to streamline redundant or obsolete policies. Further agency collaboration is needed to maximize progress in meeting Chesapeake Bay water quality goals, and Lohr said farmers should be part of the conversation.
“We’re relying on you as Farm Bureau leaders to help us make those connections,” he said.
He also touched on cannabis regulations and the proliferation of solar facilities. He said while the governor supports commercial hemp production and the farmers involved in it, he feels strongly about restricting the sale of unregulated cannabinoid products called Delta-8. And “major decisions” must be made regarding the scale and locations of solar facilities that may encroach on prime agricultural lands, he added.
Lohr, a fifth-generation farmer, said skills he developed through years of leadership on the VFBF Young Farmers Committee and as a leader in Rockingham County Farm Bureau have been essential to his success.
“Matt has spent his entire life working toward the betterment of agriculture and rural Virginia,” noted VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor. “We want to invite him back and hear from him as issues come up.”
The former state delegate also previously served as Virginia’s commissioner of agriculture and as chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“Coming back (to Virginia) as secretary is really the best job I’ve ever had,” Lohr said, describing his close working relationship with Youngkin and staff. “This is a governor who is all about the economy—growing Virginia.”