Cluster development in western Loudoun Co. Photo credit: Washington Post
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Today’s Washington Post has an article about efforts to preserve farmland in Loudoun County.
That headline instantly took me back to the late 1970s and early 1980s when there was a flurry of activity regarding the need to preserve farmland and provide landowners incentives to keep their farmland from being developed.
Loudoun County was in the center of that activity. At that time, the population of the county was about 57,000. Development in the area near Dulles Airport and the Rt. 7 corridor was in the early stages. A large part of the county was open land, consisting of large estates, as well as medium and small farms. The tools for preserving that land that were being discussed, sometimes heatedly, were conservation easements and transfer of development rights. A sample report of some of those studies is here. Continue reading
Photo credit: Va. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Remember when Gov. Glenn Youngkin was warning us about the dangers of the Chinese owning “the rich and vibrant agricultural lands God has blessed us with?”
Even the publisher of Bacon’s Rebellion thought that was far-fetched.
At Youngkin’s urging, the General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting any “foreign adversary” from acquiring “any interest in agricultural land in the Commonwealth.” The legislation required the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to issue an annual report, beginning July 1, 2023, on the amount of total farmland in the Commonwealth under foreign ownership.
The first report has been issued. As of 12/30/2021, there were 45 different countries identified as the nationality of the foreign interest in parcels of agricultural land in the Commonwealth. The parcels totaled 254,494 acres, 1.2 percent of the total privately-held agricultural land in the Commonwealth. The country identified with the most parcels was France.
Companies or individuals from China owned 13,890 acres, 5.5 percent of the total foreign-owned acres. Of the Chinese holding, 13,389 acres, 96 percent, were farms that were included in the Smithfield Foods acquisition. The acquisition of those acres in 2013 was the last time any corporation or individual associated with China acquired farmland in the Commonwealth.
It seems that Virginia’s “rich and vibrant agricultural lands” are safe from the Chinese. Those Canadian solar and timber companies are another matter, however.
Because the requirement for the report is embedded in the Code, this report will take its place alongside many other reports that agencies are required to spend time preparing, only to have them be ignored.
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
State law exempts from registration fees trucks, trailers, and other motor vehicles, used solely for farm purposes either on highways near a farmer’s land or for hauling farm products to market (see here and here). This is one of the most abused Code provisions.
The picture above was taken in my neighborhood. Take my word for it: there are no farms anywhere close.
This picture was taken on one of the main streets in Richmond or Henrico (I forget which). Unless the driver of that truck was taking a sofa that he had grown on his farm to market to sell it, he was violating the law. Violation of the statutes is a traffic infraction and punishable by a fine up to $250.
Until 2022, law enforcement officers were authorized to require drivers of vehicles claiming this exemption to provide the address of the lands owned or leased by the vehicle’s owner and used for agricultural purposes and the address of the vehicle’s owner. I doubt that happened often.
Beginning July 1 of this year, persons wishing to operate farm vehicles without regular license tags must attach an official placard provided by DMV to the vehicle. To obtain the placard, the owner of the vehicle must file an application with DMV identifying the farm and the commodities that will be transported on the exempt vehicle along with a statement that the vehicle will be used only for the exempt purposes set out in law.
If this requirement is enforced, there should be fewer “farm use” vehicles seen in urban areas.
Pig farm operated by Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods.
by James A. Bacon
Look, I consider myself a China hawk. I detest the communist regime, I consider China a threat to the global order, I think the U.S. should commit to defend Taiwan, and I support measures to crack down on China’s cyber theft and unfair trade practices. But there’s one thing I don’t get. I don’t understand the agitation about the Chinese buying American farmland.
The General Assembly appears to be poised to pass a bill that would prohibit “foreign adversaries” from acquiring or transferring agricultural land in Virginia — a ban that would extend to “meat, dairy, and poultry products; nuts, tobacco, nursery, and floral products.”
According to Virginia Public Media, the Chinese own 14,000 acres of Virginia farmland. (I expect most of this acreage can be attributed to Smithfield Foods, the pork products company.)
So what? How would Chinese ownership of Virginia floral greenhouses, or pig farms for that matter, constitute a danger to U.S. economic, military or political security? Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
Virginians have only begun to experience price inflation at the grocery store.
Price increases are in the food pipeline that will be a much bigger problem starting this summer.
Farmers and ranchers invest up front. They borrow money to do it. They are incredibly efficient at what they do, but are at the mercy of input prices. They must wait until their crops and animals are sold to recoup their investments.
Everything farmers and ranchers do with their farm machinery requires diesel. So do the trucks that move crops to those who prepare them for our use and then to market. Diesel prices are expected to reach more than $6 per gallon this summer, a 35% increase from current prices. Inventories are low.
Most fertilizer is an oil derivative and has skyrocketed up to 300% since early 2021. On average, fertilizer in March of this year was 35% more expensive than it was in the fall of 2021, with Roundup up nearly 90%. In six months.
Of course, the feed ranchers buy for their animals comes from the produce of America’s farmers.
Producer prices that reflect what they have paid for diesel and fertilizer and the trucking costs of moving those crops are predicted to reach grocery stores in the summer and fall. That hardly suggests that the 9% inflation recently seen in retail food prices is the end of it.
It is important to ask what our governments and our best charities are doing to prepare. Continue reading
by Steve Haner
First published this morning by Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.
Virginia’s Safety and Health Codes Board on Friday voted down a proposed workplace heat protection standard, strongly opposed by the state’s business community but ardently sought by organized labor and farmworker advocates.
The Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) was seeking to push the proposed rules out for a final round of public comments. Abiding by the standard schedule for regulatory adoption would have meant final approval rested with incoming Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin. Perhaps the December 3 vote was an early sign that attitudes toward the regulatory state are expected to change.
As is always the case with these proposals, a massive amount of staff work had been put into preparing the draft standard, including several industry and labor stakeholder groups meeting throughout 2021. According to public comments made before Friday’s vote, those stakeholder groups had divided along similar lines.
The briefing document for Friday’s meeting exceeds 350 pages, with the actual proposed standard covering pages 177 to 199. The first round of public comments is also reproduced in the document or can be found here. The early, written comments were heavily favorable to the rules, but the oral testimony Friday was dominated by opponents. Continue reading
by Bill Tracy
The next bug infestation: Spotted lanternflies.
Have you seem them yet? If not, you probably will in the next few years.
The Winchester region is already a quarantine area. Prince William County has them. Yesterday someone found a dead one in Fairfax County — in a grocery-store produce shipment. Continue reading
by Bill Tracy
Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies struck it rich when his wayward shotgun blast accidently discovered Black Gold. Regrettably, due to his fossil fuel habit, we must now cancel old Jed for his crimes against humanity and his wanton destruction of the planet.
Today there is a newfangled, politically acceptable liquid gold for Jed: corn oil. Not just corn oil, but soybean oil, palm oil, animal fats, grease drippings from McDonalds, and the list goes on and on. Though scientifically known as “triglycerides” to us chemists, we usually just call them “veggie oils”.
In an attempt to reduce carbon emissions, California is giving big financial subsidies to manufacturers of “advanced” biodiesel made from veggie oils. Across the USA, and overseas, too, the rush is on to gather up veggie oils and build plants to make clean diesel for California.
So, I got to wondering. Could Virginia can get a piece of this green gold rush? Continue reading
Is cannabis legal in Virginia? Most followers of this blog are aware of the recent legislative efforts in Virginia to decriminalize and then legalize the possession of intoxicating marijuana by adults. Most followers of this blog believe that Virginia is presently in a twilight world where recreational possession of intoxicating marijuana is legal while the sale of such marijuana is illegal. Most followers of this blog are wrong.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production and sale of hemp based products so long as those products contained almost no delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the compound in THC that (usually) gets people high. Unfortunately for the federal legislation there is no prohibition on delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol. Delta-8 as it’s called has a mild intoxicating effect. The apparent assumption in the 2018 Farm Bill was that Delta-8 was not a problem in the quantities found in non-intoxicating hemp products. Then along came the free market. Legal hemp products are being used to extract Delta-8 in quantities and potencies easily sufficient to intoxicate a person consuming the substance. Intoxicating marijuana products based on Delta-8 are publicly and legally on sale across the country including in Virginia. So, the sale of intoxicating marijuana products is currently legal in Virginia. Continue reading
Photo credit: Fairfax County Planning Commission
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Well, it seems as if rich folks in leftist-leaning Albemarle are not the only rich folks availing themselves of real estate tax breaks. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports today that Glenn Youngkin and his wife have saved 95% of their real estate taxes on their horse “farm” in Great Falls, the posh area of Fairfax County.
Rather than get conservation easements, which often are perpetual, the Youngkins got their property designated as an “agricultural district” by Fairfax County. Such designation lowered the real estate taxes on the property by 95%, saving them over $150,000 over the last two years. One of the conditions for the designation is that the Youngkins agreed not to develop the property for eight years. Continue reading
Dominion solar farm. Photo credit: Dominion.
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
In light of recent denials by local governing bodies, there has been some skepticism expressed on this blog as to whether the Commonwealth could meet its goals on solar energy. Going against recent trends, however, has been the city of Chesapeake.
According to the Virginian-Pilot, the city council recently approved an application to build a 900-acre solar farm. This most recent approval about doubles the size of three previously-approved projects. It is estimated the project will cost $100 million. The company anticipates generating 118 megawatts, enough to power about 20,000 homes.
The land involved is now prime farmland. An interesting aspect of this project is that is an amalgamation of acreage from multiple owners. Continue reading
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
There was a scuffle on this blog a few days ago over the production of more hardwood seedlings by the Department of Forestry. There were some who questioned the efficacy of planting more trees in the attempt to mitigate climate change. Others questioned why the state should be subsidizing the production of seedlings in the first place.
Being an ardent fan of trees, I was intrigued, and I contacted the Department of Forestry to get some more background on the program. After getting the agency’s answers to my questions, I realized there is a bigger issue at play.
The bigger issue is the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The health of the Bay is affected by point source pollution and nonpoint source pollution. We have been able to deal fairly effectively with point source pollution, such as the discharges from wastewater treatment plants. Nonpoint source pollution is much trickier. Agricultural runoff and erosion constitute a large portion of the nonpoint source pollution affecting the Bay. Continue reading
State flag of New Columbia (including NoVa)?
By Don Rippert
Taxation without representation. The Democratic Party’s control of Congress and the White House has reopened the question of statehood for Washington, DC. This is not a new issue. The question of statehood for D.C. has been actively debated since 1980. Since the 98th Congress, more than a dozen statehood bills have been introduced. Two made it out of committee. The closest any bill came to success was a 1993 effort that was defeated 277 to 193 in the US House of Representatives. Support for D.C. statehood lies almost entirely along party lines with Democrats favoring statehood since it would yield two U.S. Senators and one Representative — all of whom would almost certainly be liberal Democrats. Republican opposition has been insurmountable over the years. Maybe a major repackaging of the idea of statehood for D.C. could break the logjam. Continue reading
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
Greenhouses have been used since the time of the Roman Empire. A couple of Virginia Beach entrepreneurs are planning to use this old technology to harness the sun’s energy in a big way.
Their company, Sunny Farms, plans to invest $60 million to build hydroponic greenhouses on more than 30 acres, about 25 football fields, over three years. It would be one of the largest greenhouse facilities on the East Coast. The goal is to produce fresh vegetables for the big box chain stores in Hampton Roads, as well as for military commissaries. In its first year of operation, the company projects it will grow 10 million plants. Continue reading
Controlled fire on Summers Mountain in Highland County. Photo credit: Virginia Mercury
by James A. Bacon
Virginia’s environmentalists seem determined to out-California California when it comes to fighting global warming and pushing for a zero-carbon economy. But they do seem unlikely to repeat the colossal error that has made the Golden State a cauldron of forest fire infernos. Rather than let understory vegetation grow out of control, Virginia foresters have been practicing “controlled burning” — a practice that is written about approvingly in The Virginia Mercury, which reflects the thinking of the bien pensants in Virginia’s environmental community.
Virginia has many advantages over California when it comes to combating forest fires. We get more rain, and we have fewer and shallower droughts. But our biggest advantage may be that our environmentalists are not insane. Excessively fixated upon climate change, perhaps, but not totally disconnected from reality. Continue reading