Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry

Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry

Summary

The Virginia Secretariat of Agriculture and Forestry was created in 2004. It oversees the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Virginia Department of Forestry. Governor Mark Warner appointed former Delegate Robert Bloxom as the first secretary.

About

Source: VDACS website

The Secretariat of Agriculture and forestry combined are Virginia’s largest private sector industry. According to a 2017 economic impact study conducted by Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, agriculture and forestry have a combined economic impact of $91 billion annually.  Agriculture generates more than $70 billion per annum, while forestry induces over $21 billion. The industries also provided nearly 450,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.

The Three Priorities

As Secretary, I am excited to focus on three priority issues related to Governor Northam’s vision of building a Virginia that works better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live. Agriculture and forestry are the Commonwealth’s largest private industries, with a combined annual economic impact of over $91 billion, and the health of these industries affects communities around Virginia, especially in rural areas. My team and our three agencies are committed to supporting rural economic development, preserving farmland and forestland across Virginia, and ensuring that all Virginians, especially those who are most vulnerable, have access to safe, healthy foods.

The Virginia Secretariat of Agriculture and Forestry was created in 2004. It oversees the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Virginia Department of Forestry. Governor Mark Warner appointed former Delegate Robert Bloxom as the first secretary.

Promoting Rural and Economic Development

Given the importance of agriculture and forestry to the foundation of our economy, my team and I are committed to supporting the continued development of these industries as a both a growth engine and source of jobs throughout rural Virginia. We are dedicated to supporting the key functions of our agencies, such as inspecting and grading services and online permitting, to ensure seamless processes that create a growth-friendly environment and continued global competitiveness.

Furthermore, we are focused on growing our existing businesses and attracting new investment through the VDACS and VDOF market development programs. The Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund is a key tool for spurring growth and investment.

We will continue to develop export opportunities for Virginia agriculture and forest products via our established network of trade offices around the globe, expert staff to offer marketing and regulatory assistance, and strategic trade missions to key markets with the Governor, department staff, and federal partners.

Supporting the expansion of broadband access is also a key initiative for Governor Northam and is an important driver of success of our rural economy. Farmers and agribusinesses depend on fast, reliable internet to conduct business in the 21st century global market and to make use of new agronomic tools, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and precision agriculture technology. We will be working with key partners throughout the Administration, such as the Secretary of Commerce and Trade and the Chief Broadband Advisor, to meet Governor Northam’s goal of ensuring all Virginians have access to broadband within the next decade.

Finally, we are excited about the prospects for economic development in areas such as agritourism, craft beverages, and aquaculture, and we will work with partners within Virginia Tourism, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), and the Secretariat of Natural Resources to support this growth. Furthermore, with the scheduled reopening of Colonial Downs this summer and new opportunities for thoroughbred racing in Virginia, we are excited to play a role in the growth of the equine industry, which has a long history and reputation of excellence in the Commonwealth.

Forest and Farmland Retention

Virginia is home to over 23 million acres of farm and forestland, and we are proud to support the preservation of these natural resources. Farms and working forests are the foundation of Virginia’s rural economy, and our land conservation efforts benefit landowners, local communities, and the environment.

Governor Northam has a bold vision of using a data-driven approach to identify the highest priority lands for conservation, including working farmland and forestland, and we are excited to play a part in this important goal. We want to ensure that landowners continue to have a large toolbox and many options at their disposal for land conservation.

As the next generation seeks to return to family businesses, one of the greatest challenges facing private landowners is intergenerational transfer. We are committed to providing transition and business planning resources, such as the successful Generation NEXT program, to farmers and forest landowners to ensure economic viability and the successful transfer from the current generation to the next one. And our Century Farms and Century Forests programs help recognize those families who are committed to preserving and working these landscapes.

A component of this viability is the continued health and productivity of the Commonwealth’s forests. While continuing to support our effective pine Reforestation of Timberlands (RT) program, we are also seeking to create a first-of-its-kind hardwood enhancement incentive program. While we have already made great strides in forest management, these initiatives will guarantee productive working forests for many generations to come.

Finally, aside from being an important economic engine, the Chesapeake Bay is one of the world’s greatest natural treasures, and agriculture and forestry have an important role to play in its health. Through the dedication of landowners and other partners, such as local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, these industries have already made major strides in meeting our goals, but our work is ongoing. Through our healthy watershed program, we are working to secure private sector investment to reduce runoff and improve the overall wellbeing of the entire Bay watershed. And we are working closely with the Secretariat of Natural Resources and our stakeholders in the agriculture and forestry industries in the development of the third phase Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP3) of the Bay’s total maximum daily load (TMDL).

Food Security

Governor Northam has made one the Administration’s top priorities giving every person, particularly every child, the same shot at a healthy, safe and successful life. To grow, learn, and succeed, it is critical for Virginians to have access to nutritious, safe, affordable foods.  10 percent of Virginia households were food insecure at least some time during the past year, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members

Our goal is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

We believe that the food and agriculture sector offers key solutions for increasing access to nutritious foods and is a central component for eliminating hunger in Virginia. During the Northam Administration, our efforts to address hunger and food security will include investments in strategies to provide children and families with three meals a day, 365 days a year and to strengthen the connection from farm to fork.

As we focus on agriculture as a vehicle for addressing food insecurity, there is a need for new, innovative strategies to grow community food access.  Expanding market opportunities for farmers through farmers’ markets, farm to school programs, and urban agriculture directly correlate to higher levels of food access in communities.

In collaboration with the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, we will focus on building partnerships with community food access organizations, expanding access and participation in federal nutrition assistance programs, and seeking solutions to food insecurity through local agriculture initiatives.  Using a cross-secretariat approach, we will collaborate on efforts to expand access to healthy foods and meals through school nutrition and summer feeding programs.  Additionally, we will focus on addressing food deserts through healthy food retail, farmers’ markets, corner stores, mobile markets, and other initiatives.

Bettina Ring

Governor Ralph S. Northam appointed Bettina Ring in 2018 to serve as the fourth Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In this capacity, she supports the Governor’s mission of building a strong Virginia economy in agriculture and forestry, two of Virginia’s largest private industries, while also protecting the environment.

 

Contact

Email: Bettina Ring

Locations

Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry

P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218
Phone: 804-692-2511

Web

Website

Priorities

Source: VDACS webpage

Promoting Rural and Economic Development

Given the importance of agriculture and forestry to the foundation of our economy, my team and I are committed to supporting the continued development of these industries as a both a growth engine and source of jobs throughout rural Virginia. We are dedicated to supporting the key functions of our agencies, such as inspecting and grading services and online permitting, to ensure seamless processes that create a growth-friendly environment and continued global competitiveness.

Furthermore, we are focused on growing our existing businesses and attracting new investment through the VDACS and VDOF market development programs. The Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund is a key tool for spurring growth and investment.

We will continue to develop export opportunities for Virginia agriculture and forest products via our established network of trade offices around the globe, expert staff to offer marketing and regulatory assistance, and strategic trade missions to key markets with the Governor, department staff, and federal partners.

Supporting the expansion of broadband access is also a key initiative for Governor Northam and is an important driver of success of our rural economy. Farmers and agribusinesses depend on fast, reliable internet to conduct business in the 21st century global market and to make use of new agronomic tools, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and precision agriculture technology. We will be working with key partners throughout the Administration, such as the Secretary of Commerce and Trade and the Chief Broadband Advisor, to meet Governor Northam’s goal of ensuring all Virginians have access to broadband within the next decade.

Finally, we are excited about the prospects for economic development in areas such as agritourism, craft beverages, and aquaculture, and we will work with partners within Virginia Tourism, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), and the Secretariat of Natural Resources to support this growth. Furthermore, with the scheduled reopening of Colonial Downs this summer and new opportunities for thoroughbred racing in Virginia, we are excited to play a role in the growth of the equine industry, which has a long history and reputation of excellence in the Commonwealth.

Forest and Farmland Retention

Virginia is home to over 23 million acres of farm and forestland, and we are proud to support the preservation of these natural resources. Farms and working forests are the foundation of Virginia’s rural economy, and our land conservation efforts benefit landowners, local communities, and the environment.

Governor Northam has a bold vision of using a data-driven approach to identify the highest priority lands for conservation, including working farmland and forestland, and we are excited to play a part in this important goal. We want to ensure that landowners continue to have a large toolbox and many options at their disposal for land conservation.

As the next generation seeks to return to family businesses, one of the greatest challenges facing private landowners is intergenerational transfer. We are committed to providing transition and business planning resources, such as the successful Generation NEXT program, to farmers and forest landowners to ensure economic viability and the successful transfer from the current generation to the next one. And our Century Farms and Century Forests programs help recognize those families who are committed to preserving and working these landscapes.

A component of this viability is the continued health and productivity of the Commonwealth’s forests. While continuing to support our effective pine Reforestation of Timberlands (RT) program, we are also seeking to create a first-of-its-kind hardwood enhancement incentive program. While we have already made great strides in forest management, these initiatives will guarantee productive working forests for many generations to come.

Finally, aside from being an important economic engine, the Chesapeake Bay is one of the world’s greatest natural treasures, and agriculture and forestry have an important role to play in its health. Through the dedication of landowners and other partners, such as local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, these industries have already made major strides in meeting our goals, but our work is ongoing. Through our healthy watershed program, we are working to secure private sector investment to reduce runoff and improve the overall wellbeing of the entire Bay watershed. And we are working closely with the Secretariat of Natural Resources and our stakeholders in the agriculture and forestry industries in the development of the third phase Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP3) of the Bay’s total maximum daily load (TMDL).

Food Security

Governor Northam has made one the Administration’s top priorities giving every person, particularly every child, the same shot at a healthy, safe and successful life. To grow, learn, and succeed, it is critical for Virginians to have access to nutritious, safe, affordable foods.  10 percent of Virginia households were food insecure at least some time during the past year, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members

Our goal is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

We believe that the food and agriculture sector offers key solutions for increasing access to nutritious foods and is a central component for eliminating hunger in Virginia. During the Northam Administration, our efforts to address hunger and food security will include investments in strategies to provide children and families with three meals a day, 365 days a year and to strengthen the connection from farm to fork.

As we focus on agriculture as a vehicle for addressing food insecurity, there is a need for new, innovative strategies to grow community food access.  Expanding market opportunities for farmers through farmers’ markets, farm to school programs, and urban agriculture directly correlate to higher levels of food access in communities.

In collaboration with the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, we will focus on building partnerships with community food access organizations, expanding access and participation in federal nutrition assistance programs, and seeking solutions to food insecurity through local agriculture initiatives.  Using a cross-secretariat approach, we will collaborate on efforts to expand access to healthy foods and meals through school nutrition and summer feeding programs.  Additionally, we will focus on addressing food deserts through healthy food retail, farmers’ markets, corner stores, mobile markets, and other initiatives.

 

Departments

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Source: VDACS website

Established in 1877, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) promotes the economic growth and development of Virginia agriculture, provides consumer protection and encourages environmental stewardship.

The agency is headquartered in Richmond and has several field offices, four regional diagnostic animal health laboratories and a global network of representatives promoting Virginia products internationally.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) promotes the economic growth and development of Virginia agriculture, encourages environmental stewardship, and provides consumer protection. VDACS is responsible for approximately 60 state laws and 70 regulations and includes the Division of Animal and Food Industry Services, Division of Charitable Gaming, Division of Consumer Protection, and the Division of Marketing. For more information, click on the VDACS logo to go to their website.

Agency Head: Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh
Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh is the 16th Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Dr. Bronaugh previously served as the Executive Director of the Center of Agriculture Research, Engagement and Outreach (CAREO) and the Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University, and as Virginia’s State Executive Director for the USDA/ Farm Service Agency.

Department of Forestry

Source: DOF Website

The Department of Forestry (DOF) is responsible for the protection of 15.8 million acres of forest land from fire, insects, and disease; management of forests and other state lands; and public assistance through professional forestry advice and technical management programs. Forestland provides 60 percent of the land cover in the Commonwealth. For more information, click on the DOF logo to go to their website.

Agency Head: Rob Farrell

Rob Farrell was appointed State Forester of Virginia by Governor Ralph Northam in January 2018.  Prior to this, he served as the Deputy State Forester for the past five years and he has been with the agency since 2000.  Prior to the VDOF, Rob worked as an arborist and urban forester in Maryland and Virginia.  He is a Certified Arborist and has a B.S. and M.S. in Forestry from Virginia Tech.

Virginia Racing Commission

Source: VRC Website

The Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) is responsible for the oversight and ensuring the safety and health of Virginia’s horse racing industry, as well as monitoring pari-mutuel wagering in the Commonwealth.

Agency Head: David Lermond
David Lermond has been with the Virginia Racing Commission for 15 years and has served as its Executive Secretary for the last three. Prior to that, he served as the Commission’s Deputy Executive Secretary and Fiscal Officer and is also an accredited Steward/Judge by the Racing Officials Accreditation Program which allowed him to perform the duties as a Steward for Thoroughbred racing and a Judge for Standardbred racing in the Commonwealth. Mr. Lermond was the Director of Simulcasting at Delaware Park Racetrack for ten years before accepting his position with the Virginia Racing Commission, giving him a total of over 25 years of experience working within the horse racing industry.

Discuss

OnAir membership is required.  The lead Moderator for the discussions is .
We encourage civil, honest, and safe discourse.  See Terms of Service for curation guidelines.

This is an open discussion on the contents of this post.

Home Forums Open Discussion

Viewing 0 reply threads
Viewing 0 reply threads
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Skip to toolbar