Va. agriculture and forestry industries grow 30 percent in four years

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia is seeing a major boost in its agriculture and forestry industries.

On Tuesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Virginia) announced that, combined, the two make up $91 billion in economic impact for the state.

“It is a dynamic, growing business here in the commonwealth of Virginia,” he said.

The study, which was led by Dr. Terry Rephann of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, found that agriculture accounts for $70 billion and forestry makes up $21 billion.

Those numbers are up 30 percent from the most recent study from 2013. Back then, the combined total was $70 billion.

The number of jobs has also jumped from 414,700 to 442,200. That means nearly one out of every ten jobs comes from from agriculture and forestry industries.

Steve Gallmeyer has been working in agriculture for as long as he can remember.

“When all the other kids were on summer break riding their bicycles up and down the street, I was on a tractor out in the field,” he said.

He owns Gallmeyer Farms in eastern Henrico County. He said it’s been in his family for 150 years.

Gallmeyer Farms specializes in three main products: strawberries, sweet corn and pumpkins.

There is also a produce stand. Gallmeyer said there are probably more hands on your food than you might realize.

“It can pass through so many different people before it ever gets to the end user,” he said. “And all of that is agricultural impact.”

Aside from family farms, McAuliffe noted there are now more than 300 wineries, 206 craft breweries and 46 distilleries in the commonwealth.

“Think of all the crops that they’re buying. They’re keeping our rural farmers busy,” he said.

McAuliffe said, while he has focused on a lot of new industries like cyber security, data centers and unmanned aerial systems, agriculture and forestry are staples.

“We cannot forget our great roots,” he said. “Ag and forestry are critical for the continued growth.”

The governor said there has been bipartisan support for the industries.

“There are not red and blue ag products. They are Virginia products. They’re stamped grown in Virginia,” he said.

McAuliffe attributes the growth in part to his administration’s “aggressive outreach” on trade and opening up markets in other countries.

He recently finished his 29th trade mission.

“I’m a big free trader. I believe if you give me a fair trade deal, I’ll negotiate with anybody and our products will beat anyone else around the globe,” he said.

Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden said the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) program has also helped.

“It’s been a tremendous impact as well to boost the economy, to expand agribusinesses and that whole supply chain,” he said.

To see the full study, click HERE.

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