Shenandoah Valley Ag Preservation Alliance – Economic Impacts Forum
On June 28, agriculture producers came out of the fields to discuss the economic impacts of their industry during a forum hosted by Valley Conservation Council’s Shenandoah Valley Agriculture Preservation Alliance (Ag Alliance) along with agency staff, conservation groups, and related professionals. Across the nation, Americans are an average of three generations removed from the farm. However, the impact of agriculture on our lives is far greater than just providing the safest food supply in the world. Consider the $4.3 billion economic contribution of the Virginia dairy industry and the fact that one third of those farms are based in the Shenandoah Valley region. Or the beef industry which provides 37,000 jobs in Virginia alone. Or the state’s leading agricultural sector, the poultry industry, which helps meet the demands of the nation’s average consumption of 100 pounds of chicken per person per year!
The central Shenandoah Valley is uniquely positioned to leverage all of this economic activity. We have strong supporting infrastructure, farmers who have been passing down the know-how for generations, and proximity to East Coast consumer markets. But there are many challenges for the agriculture industry, causing the number of actual farmers to shrink and the future to be more uncertain.
As you drive across the region today, take the time to look around and not only appreciate the incredible views our farms create, but also the many positive impacts this industry and these individual farm businesses have on our economy and our way of life. As Ag Alliance steering committee member Jon May said, “We are in this together. We think someone else will take care of it but they won’t. We need to be proactive in our own right (to educate ourselves and others.) We have a job before us.”
Speakers at this forum included Jason Carter with Virginia Cattlemens Association, Hobey Bauhan of the Virginia Poultry Federation, Eric Paulson with the Virginia State Dairymens Association and Keith Phillips with First Bank & Trust. Farmers and Ag Alliance Steering Committee members Jon May and Buff Showalter also spoke.
Note: The Ag Alliance grew out of a multi-year VCC project focused on addressing the future of Shenandoah Valley farming and conservation together. We are grateful to the Agua Fund for supporting these efforts.