The following text was sent out via email on January 24, 2023. Sign up for PEC email alerts →
Hello! As you’ve probably noticed from an uptick in news out of Richmond, the Virginia General Assembly, which kicked off on January 11, is now in full swing. In the state’s alternating pattern of 30-day and 60-day sessions, this year is a “short session” that is expected to conclude before the end of February. View the 2023 session calendar →
The Piedmont Environmental Council is tracking a broad array of bills and budget amendments, as well as supporting legislative priorities of partners within the Virginia Conservation Network. This session, there has been a heavy focus on climate and energy policy that encourages a transition to renewable energy, electric vehicles and charging station infrastructure, as well as a push to incorporate climate resilience into local comprehensive plans. You can view VCN’s bill tracker to get a feel for the many pieces of legislation that could significantly affect Virginia residents and the environment.
Zooming in, PEC is taking a hard look at legislation related to local land use, government transparency and land conservation and restoration. There are bills of interest on a wide range of subjects, from utility regulation and clean energy, to invasive species and wildlife corridors, to data center siting and minerals mining. Take a look at PEC’s priority list of bills →
Today, I want to draw your attention to an opportunity to meaningfully increase funding for farmland conservation. For more than a decade, PEC and partners have called for additional funding for Virginia’s land conservation grant programs, which include the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) and the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund (VFPF). This year, the substantial budget surplus offers a very real shot to finally do so. Ask your delegate and senator to support the bipartisan budget amendments for land conservation introduced by Senator David Marsden (D-37) in the Senate and Delegate Lee Ware (R-65) in the House.
Committed state action is an essential response to the continued loss of farmland in Virginia. Enhanced funding for the Virginia Land Conservation Fund and the Farmland Preservation Fund would allow Virginia’s state agencies, local jurisdictions, and private land trusts to access expanded federal Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) funding, which Virginia has historically underutilized.
Thank you in advance for supporting increased funding for farmland protection. This year there are also budget amendments to increase funding for individual projects around the Commonwealth — including battlefield protection, expanded state parks and trails, and natural heritage preserves — and funding for state agencies that implement conservation policy.
PEC’s focus on farmland preservation is in the hope that Virginia can take full advantage of unprecedented funding available through the federal Farm Bill and supplemented by the Inflation Reduction Act. Historically, Virginia has ranked dead last among other Chesapeake Bay states in the number of projects and acres conserved through the federal Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) program (and its predecessor programs) intended to spur farmland conservation. This is in part because such federal programs favor a source of matching funds. Perhaps, with passage of these amendments, we can jump to the head of the pack!
Let’s invest in Virginia farms and farmland now, for the future.
Christopher G. Miller
540-347-2334 ext. 7100