RICHMOND, Va. — Even in rural communities, not every candidate for local office is well-versed in agriculture. County Farm Bureaus across Virginia play an important role in advocating for local agriculture and forestry issues.
County Farm Bureau leaders work to build relationships with local representatives and keep members informed about local issues.
“Being politically active creates opportunities for farmers to establish relationships with local officials,” said Kelly Roberts, assistant director of member engagement for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “In turn, farmers can become great resources on agriculture issues and help these officials understand how other issues could impact local farms.”
In urban counties, agriculture issues are not always a focus for elected officials. Some of those issues, like land use taxation, are complex, and leaders may not fully understand how they directly affect farmers.
Farm Bureau officials often meet with local leaders to discuss challenges facing the farming community. Some counties, such as Chesterfield, Powhatan and King William, have created Ag Vision platforms to inform candidates about what is needed to keep agriculture and forestry viable. The platforms focus on responsible growth management, farm and forest land preservation and diversified agriculture.
“There are so many politicians who don’t recognize the impact agriculture and forestry have,” said Howard Nester, president of Chesterfield County Farm Bureau. That organization recently held a dinner to discuss its Ag Vision platform with about 40 candidates for local office. “We have people running for election who don’t realize how much income comes from agriculture and forestry in Chesterfield.”
County Farm Bureaus publicize which candidates endorse an Ag Vision platform via news releases, advertisements and communications to Farm Bureau members.
“There’s a logo we developed that candidates can use in their own advertising and campaigning to show they endorse Ag Vision,” Nester said.
He also emphasized the importance of building connections with local officials and noted that three members of the Chesterfield Farm Bureau board of directors serve on the county’s Agriculture and Forestry Advisory Committee.
–Virginia Farm Bureau