RICHMOND, Va. — A more verdant Virginia was made possible with the enactment of a Virginia Department of Forestry pine reforestation program 50 years ago. That program still flourishes today with the support of grassroots forestry organizations.
Virginia Farm Bureau Federation was recognized by VDOF officials for decades of effort to make timberland owners aware of reforestation incentives, and advocating for matching funding from the state. Beyond timber’s value as a commodity, forestland protects the soil, yields fresh air, provides animal habitat and beautifies landscapes.
A special presentation recognizing Farm Bureau’s support was held Dec. 1 at the 2021 VFBF Annual Convention in Williamsburg. VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor and Forestry Advisory Committee Chair Bill Osl proudly accepted the award.
“As a grassroots organization, we see the importance of providing landowners with assistance in planting trees and supporting the overall forestry industry,” Pryor said. “The state has the goal to make sure we are planting more trees than we are harvesting. Over a period of time, these practices maintain a supply to support the industry.”
Martha Moore, vice president of VFBF governmental relations, educates lawmakers about the value of reforestation incentives. The reforestation program helps ensure a stable supply of pine for the forestry companies that utilize it, supports jobs in rural areas and helps the commonwealth’s overall economy.
“When trees are harvested, landowners have an option to replant,” Moore said. “The Department of Forestry offers various types of cost assistance with that replanting, which incentivizes landowners to participate.”
State forester Rob Farrell added that “stable, sustainable, well-managed forests provide natural, economic and health benefits for all Virginians. The ongoing support from partners like Virginia Farm Bureau is at the heart of the program’s longevity and a testament to the program’s achievements in sustainability.”
The Reforestation of Timberlands program was adopted by the state legislature following the 1967 U.S. Forest Service Virginia Timber Survey, which found the cutting of pine timber exceeded growth by 15%. The report said pines were in danger of continuous depletion in volume, growth and area unless positive steps altered the trends.
The program provides incentive by sharing the cost of pine reforestation with private landowners. The current cost-share rate is between 35% and 50%. Since 1971, cost-share assistance has been provided on 52,346 projects covering over 2 million acres, with $66 million in incentive payments.
Now, new pine growth outpaces removals by 25% or more.
Farrell said the RT program is a long-term success story that has served as a model for similar cost-share programs across the nation.
“These are successes that we seek to repeat with our new Hardwood Incentive Program,” he said.
In 2020, Gov. Ralph Northam’s budget included $350,000 in funding for a statewide hardwood incentive program and a hardwood coordinator position at VDOF, Farrell reported.
“They recognized the importance of the hardwood forest resource and the need to take action to safeguard and grow it.”
With 132,000 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 supporting Virginia’s agriculture industry. View more convention news as it is shared at vafb.com/convention, and follow us on social media via #VFBFannualmtg21.
–Virginia Farm Bureau