Capitol Report - February 26, 2017

Final Week at the General Assembly!

And they're done! Adjourning 2-25-2017, the 2017 General Assembly completed their action on close to 3000 bills and resolutions. The Council was thrilled to see the positive results of our hard work over the past several months on all of our legislative priorities and initiatives, including produce safety, food safety, and truck weights and farm-use vehicles to name a few. 

Additionally, we are pleased to report that while several programs of interest did retain budget reductions, priority services at VDACS were retained, additional funds for the reforestation of timberlands were obtained, proposed fee increases on loggers and food establishments were eliminated, and funding of agricultural best management practices was increased beyond that provided in the Governor's introduced budget. Funding reductions for Va. Cooperative Extension were also eliminated.

On behalf of the Council, we thank our members for your attention to these Capitol Reports, and action to support our legislative priorities and initiatives during the 2017 General Assembly. It is truly an honor to represent Virginia's largest industry of agriculture and forestry, and each of you, to our legislature. Stay tuned for a Summary Capitol Report, coming in the new few weeks once we re-group from the Session!

Budget Updates

Virginia Department of Forestry (DOF)

  • Reforestation of Timberlands Funds (RT)- Restored the $300,000 cut to the RT program fund to fully fund the RT program and fixed an oversight on accounting system payments for DOF.
  • Water Quality Inspection Fee- Eliminated the proposed $100 water quality inspection fee, and restored $500,000 for water quality inspections.
  • Sale of DOF lands- transferred the proceeds of DOF lands from the DOF to the General Fund. Will need to assess impacts on state forest nursery operations.
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS)
  • Coyote and Black Vulture Technical Assistance-Restored full funding, which had been eliminated in the Governor's budget.
  • Food Establishment Inspection Fees- Removed proposed fee increases for food establishment inspections & restored $400,000 in funds for the program.
  • Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID) - Reduced funding by an additional $780,000 from the fund, leaving $1 million for AFID. The fund currently has $2.3 million in unappropriated balances.
  • Farm Business Development Program- Eliminated funding for the new program, which was established in the budget in 2016, but did retain the employee position for the program.
  • Organic Marketing Specialist- Eliminated funding for the new position, which was established in the budget in 2016. 
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
  • Ag BMP Cost Share Program - $6.7 million from a water quality reserve fund was appropriated in the House & Senate budgets, in addition to the $8.8 million for FY18 that was included in introduced budget. Total funds for BMPs totals $15.5 million. 
  • CREP Funding- $500,000 from the water quality reserve fund for CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program), matches $1 million in federal funds.
  • Technical Assistance- TA funding was authorized up to $2.1 million.
  • Resource Management Plan Incentives- Study language was included in both budgets to request DCR to explore additional incentives to encourage more farmers to implement RMPs.
Higher Education & Va. Cooperative Extension (VCE)
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech - Restored the $2.04 million budget reduction for VCE at Virginia Tech, and corrected the "fund split" concern that has led to reduced funding for VCE over the past 3 years. In addition, included budget language to review economic development opportunities for agriculture and forestry, through a cooperative effort at VT and VSU.
  • Shortage of Ag Teachers - Study by VSU and VT  cooperative extension to study and develop recommendations for addressing shortage of ag teachers in Virginia.


  • Burn ban- exception for freeze protection of orchard or vineyard, HB 1793, Fariss (R- Rustburg)- SUPPORT
    • Update: Signed by the Governor, effective 7/1/17.
  • Running bamboo; cutting by localities; ordinance prohibiting spread; designation of certain plants. SB 964, Hanger (R- Mount Solon) & HB 2154, Rasoul (D-Roanoke) -SUPPORT
    • Update: SB 964 signed by Governor; HB 2154 awaiting Governor's approval
  • Industrial hemp; license to grow outside of research program, SB 1306, Vogel (R-Winchester)
    • Update: Left in Appropriations Committee with no action.
  • Repeals required reports on Farmers' markets; farm and forest land conversion, HB 1781, Plum (D- Reston)
    • Update: Approved by the Governor, effective 7/1/17.
  • Gubernatorial appointments to boards; membership and terms, including changing VDACS board appointments to July 1, HB 2285, Cole (R-Fredericksburg)
    • Update: Awaiting action by the Governor.
  • Resolution celebrating the life of Alvin W. Blaha, HR 282, Aird (D-Petersburg) & SR 98, Ruff (R-Clarksville)
    • Update: Approved by House & Senate

Alcohol- Farm Wineries, Breweries, and Distilleries

  • Alcoholic beverage control; nonprofit banquet licensees; sale of wine for off-premises consumption, HB 1694, Marshall, Danny (R-Danville)
    • Update: Approved by the Governor this week.
  • Alcoholic beverage control; banquet licenses for wineries and breweries, HB 2418, Robinson, (R-Midlothian)
    • Update: Approved by the Governor this week.
  • Alcoholic beverage control; cider shall be treated as wine for all purposes of ABC law, HB 2433, Bulova (D- Fairfax)-SUPPORT
    • Update: Approved by the Governor this week.
  • Alcoholic beverage control; applications for retail license, SB 1382, Ebbin (D- Alexandria)
    • Update: Approved by House this week and waiting for the Governor's signature 


  • Marine Resources Commission; oyster planting grounds; notice of application for lease. HB 2297, Miyares (R- Virginia Beach) & SB 1144, DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach)
    • Update: SB 1144 approved by the Governor this weekHB 2297 approved by the Senate and waiting for the Governor's signature 
  • Oyster ground lease; certain dredging projects, HB 1796, Stolle (R- Virginia Beach) 
    • Update: HB 1796 approved by the Senate and waiting for the Governor's signature
  • Establish Working waterfront development areas, SB 1203, Lewis (D-Accomac)
    • Update: Approved by the Governor this week

Economic Development
  • Rural Coastal Virginia Economic Development Authority created. HB 2055, Hodges (R-Urbanna)
    • Update: Final version approved and on its way to the Governor.
  • Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority; Chief Executive Officer, powers and duties, HB 2471, Jones (R-Suffolk), SB 1574, Ruff (R-Clarksville)
    • Update: Conference committee reports were agreed to by the House and Senate and now waiting for the Governor's signature 


  • Va Polytechnic Institute and State University and Va State University; purpose and courses of study. HB 1569, Orrock (R-Thornburg)- SUPPORT
    • Update: Approved by Governor this week.
  • Teacher licensure; career and technical education; certain local waivers, HB 1770, Freitas (R-Culpeper), SB 1583, Suetterlein (R-Roanoke)
    • Update:Both chambers agreed to the Governor's amendments and passed both bills


  • Recordation tax; exemption for Coops, HB 1478, Orrock (R- Thornburg) & SB 875, Ruff (R-Clarksville)
    • Update: HB 1478 approved by the Governor, effective 7/1/17; SB 875 awaiting action by the Governor.
  • Small agricultural generators; establishes parameters of a program, HB 2303, Minchew (R- Leesburg) & SB 1394, Wagner (R-Virginia Beach)
    • Update: HB 2303 awaiting action by the Governor; SB 1394 approved by House.
  • Renewable energy power purchase agreements; expands pilot program, HB 2390Kilgore (R-Gate City)
    • Update: Awaiting action by the Governor.
  • Electric utilities; community solar pilot programs, SB 1393, Wagner (R-Virginia Beach)
    • Update: Approved by House; now to the Governor for his approval.
  • Small renewable energy projects; eligibility for permits by rule, SB 1395, Wagner (R-Virginia Beach)
    • Update: Approved by House this week.

Environment- Miscellaneous

  • Clean Power Plan; state implementation plan; General Assembly approval. HB 1974, O'Quinn (R-Bristol)
    • Update: Bill did not make it out of conference committee

Food & Produce Safety

  • Produce Safety Rule- Allows Va. to implement federal Produce Safety Rule, SB 1195, Stuart (R-Montross)- SUPPORT 
    • Update: Senate agreed to amendments by a vote of 25-14; now to the Governor.

Local Government

  • Proffers; notice of amendment, HB 1797, Stolle (R-Virginia Beach)
    • Update: Awaiting action by the Governor.
  • Zoning Appeals, Board of; clarifies provisions referring to appeal costs, includes governing body, HB 1994, Habeeb (R-Salem)
    • Update: Awaiting action by the Governor.
  • Local collection fees, HB 2442, Ingram (R-Hopewell)
    • Update: Awaiting action by the Governor.
  • Commissioner of Highways; commercial establishment entrances, HB 2463, Hodges (R-Urbanna)
    • Update: Approved by Senate.
  • Zoning; delinquent charges, HB 2469, Jones (R-Suffolk)
    • Update: Awaiting action by the Governor.

Land Preservation

  • Land preservation tax credit; per taxpayer limitation, SB 963, Hanger (R-Mount Solon)
    • Update: Awaiting action by the Governor.
  • Real property tax; special assessment for land preservation, HB 1476, Orrock (R-Thornburg)
    • Update: Approved by the Governor, effective 7/1/17.
  • Land preservation tax credits; withholding tax of nonresident owners, SB 1286, Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg)
    • Update: Awaiting action by the Governor.


Regulatory & Professional Reviews
  • Planning & Budget, Department of; establishment of Div. of Regulatory Management & Red Tape Commission, SB 1449Chase (R- Midlothian)
    • Update: Did not advance from Appropriations Committee.
  • Professions and occupations; active supervision of regulatory boards, HB 1566, Webert (R-Warrenton)
    • Update: Amended in conference Committee but failed to pass the House
  • Unmanned aircraft system; use of system to trespass, HB 2350Minchew (R-Leesburg)
    • Update: Approved by the Senate this week; on its way to the Governor.


  • Virginia Broadband Deployment Act; localities ownership of communications system, HB 2108, Byron (R-Lynchburg)
    • Update: Amended version approved by House this week; on its way to the Governor.
  • Landowner liability; recreational access. SB 1224 , Stuart (R-Montross)
    • Update: Approved by House 71-25 this week and waiting on the Governor's signature 

Property Rights/Eminent Domain

  • Condemnation powers and proceedings; imminent threat to public health, safety, and welfare, HB 2024, Freitas (R-Culpeper)
    • Update: Conference committee report agreed to by both chambers
  • Eminent domain; timing for initiation of 'quick-take' condemnation procedure for just compensation, SB 927, Petersen (D- Fairfax)
    • Update: Approved by House this week.
  • Inverse condemnation proceeding; reimbursement of owner's costs, SB 1153, Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) -SUPPORT
    • Update: Approved by House this week.


  • Tobacco Board; composition, increases assessment on bright flue-cured & type 21 dark-fired tobacco, HB 2254, Edmunds (R- Halifax) & SB 948, Ruff (R-Clarksville)- SUPPORT
    • Update: Both bills signed by the Governor.


  • Farm use vehicles; imposes a $250 fine for failing to comply with restrictions for use on highway, HB 1440, Bell, Richard P. (R-Staunton)-SUPPORT
    • Update: Approved by Governor this week.
  • Overweight permits for hauling Virginia-grown farm produce; validity throughout the Commonwealth, HB 1519, Knight (R-Virginia Beach)- SUPPORT
    • Update: Approved by Senate unanimously this week.
  • Reformulated gasoline; sale for farm use, HB 1520, Knight (R-Virginia Beach) & SB 899, DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach)
    • Update: Conference Committee reports were agreed to by both chambers
  • Farm use vehicles, certain; registration exemption, highway distance limitations, HB 2239, Fariss (R-Rustburg)- SUPPORT
    • Update: Approved by Senate unanimously.
  • Motor carrier size and weight limitations comply with federal law, includes milk hauler changes, SB 1384, Carrico (R-Galax)-SUPPORT
    • Update: Approved by House unanimously and waiting for the Governor's signature 

Water Quality- Soil & Water, Nutrients, & Stormwater

  • Conflict of Interests Act, State and Local Government; prohibited contracts, exceptions, HB 1472, Lingamfelter (R-Woodbridge) & SB 965, Hanger (R- Mount Solon)- SUPPORT
    • Update: HB1472 approved by Governor. SB 965 approved by House.
  • Watershed discharge permits; review of allocations, HB 1619, Bulova (D-Fairfax Station)
    • Update: Approved by the Governor.
  • Nutrient Offset Fund; sale of credits, HB 2311, Cox (R-Colonial Heights)
    • Update: Approved by Senate this week.
  • Local stormwater management utility; waiver of charges; stormwater retained on site, HB 1597, Webert (R-Warrenton)
    • Update: Awaiting action by the Governor.
  • Stormwater and erosion control; local rural development growth areas; best management practices. HB 1774, Hodges (R-Urbanna)
    • Update: Bill approved by Senate.
  • Stormwater and erosion management; administration of program by certified third party. HB 2009, Hodges (R-Urbanna)
    • Update: Bill approved by Senate.
  • State Water Control Board; stormwater management programs, regulations, professional license, HB 2076, Wilt (R-Harrisonburg) & SB 1127, Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg)
    • Update: HB 2076 approved by the Governor.  SB 1127 approved by the Governor.

2017 General Assembly Resources

Membership Drive & Spring Council Connections Series!

Join Council staff, Board of Directors and industry colleagues for food, fun, and fellowship, as well as a recap of the recent General Assembly session! We are thrilled to share that Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Basil Gooden, will be our special guest at many of the dinners and receptions.  As always, we will also be inviting local legislators to attend.  These meetings are FREE to both Council members and prospects, so please share this invitation with anyone you feel could benefit from this unique opportunity to network with industry partners and important decision makers!

Schedule of Events
  • Wednesday, April 19 - Reception to be held at Blue Bee Cider in Richmond
Those attending the Forum For Rural Innovation March 10 in Winchester and the Virginia Agritourism Conference April 18-20 in Richmond, please be sure to include 
Council Connections in your plans!

Thank You To Our Sponsors:
All events are FREE to attend!
Please consider supporting the Council through a sponsorship:

Event Sponsor ($300) or Dinner/Reception Sponsor ($500)

All sponsors will receive:
Recognition and signage at the event
Acknowledgement on VAC's website, newsletters and event promotions 
**Reception & Dinner Sponsors are invited to bring a table-top display to the event.

Industry Calendar - Upcoming Meetings & Conferences!

              Friday, March 3 at the VT Alson H. Smith AREC in Winchester, VA
Register with Bonnie McCauley at Va. Crop Improvement Assn. 

9th Annual Governor's Conference on Agricultural Trade
Mon. - Tues., March 6-7 in Richmond Details & Registration here

Virginia Cooperative Council - Annual Meeting
Wed., March 8 in Staunton ; Details and Registration here

Northern Virginia Council Connections Reception
Thurs., March 9 in Leesburg; Details & Registration here

Forum For Rural Innovation
Friday, March 10 in Winchester; Details & Registration here

Northern Neck Council Connections Dinner
Thurs., March 16 in Tappahannock; Details & Registration here

Southwest Council Connections Dinner
Thurs., April 6 in Abingdon; Registration coming soon!

2017 Agritourism Conference
Tues. - Thurs., April 18-20 in Richmond ; Details & Registration here

Richmond-area Council Connections Reception
Wed., April 19 in Richmond; Registration coming soon!

Shenandoah Valley Council Connections Dinner
Thurs., May 25 in Weyers Cave; Registration coming soon!
Questions, Responses, Opinions? 
We look forward to hearing from you in regard to this e-newsletter, its content, and any of the issues we addressed or didn't address. Let us know your thoughts.  Thanks for reading !  

Va. Agribusiness Council
1025 Boulders Parkway, Suite 111
North Chesterfield, Virginia 23225
P- 804/643-3555; F- 804/643-3556

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