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VA Environmental Jobs Help Economy Grow

Posted on December 3, 2008

VA environmental jobs are crucial to the state’s economy.

According to a study by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, which was presented at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation‘s annual convention at The Homestead, Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries have a $79 billion impact on the state’s economy. The two industries alone create about 501,500 jobs, or 10.3 percent of the state’s employment.

While the industries play an important role in Virginia‘s economy, experts say there are favorable and unfavorable aspects to each industry, and the general public is drifting further away from both industries. According to an article by The News Virginian, the state can do more with its agriculture and forestry industries. One idea is that state farmers should diversify into farmers markets, agritourism, wineries, hay rides, pumpkin patches and pick-your-own places.

Local farmers have been concerned lately about a federal mandate approved years ago to increase ethanol use, which would benefit livestock producers by providing them with extra feed. However, since then corn prices have continued to increase.

“We’re concerned that those caps [on using corn] are too high and it’s going to run our costs of operations up,” Charles Curry, president of the Augusta County Farm Bureau Federation, said in the article, adding this mandate could threaten the poultry industry because of its need for corn and soybeans.

Curry also is pushing to limit government’s ability to seize land through eminent domain. He also would like to see a memorial to federation members who have died in the line of duty – something which is familiar in Virginia.

Other farmers are more focused on farmers’ willingness to reconnect to people and the earth, which could create a new food system full of opportunity. Currently organic foods outsell local foods with sales of $20 billion and $5 billion, respectively. However, organic food sales growth is slowing, and many people are toward a natural and organic local sustainable food movement.

“We are confronted with a whole host of ecological and environmental challenges, social and economic challenges,” John Ikerd, professor emeritus of agriculture economics at the University of Missouri, said in the article, “and growing indications, folks, that we simply cannot continue doing what we’ve been doing for very much longer, not for our economy, not for our society, not for agriculture, not for our food system.”

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Owings Mills Times
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