Category Archives: Agriculture & forestry

How are Virginians Preparing for the Coming Food Price Shocks?

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

Workplace Heat Rule Given Cold Shoulder

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

Step Aside Gypsy Moths, There’s a New Bug in Town

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

Can Virginia Tap into California’s Liquid Gold Rush?

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

Delta – 8 THC and the Government’s Marijuana Plans Go “Up in Smoke”

Photo credit: CBDOracle.com

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

Agriculture in Great Falls?

Youngkin stables
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

From Farming Corn to Electrons

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

Trees and the Chesapeake Bay

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

Should Northern Virginia Join D.C. in the 51st State?

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

An Old Use of Solar Power

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

Only You Can Prevent Mega Fires

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

Ralph Rescues Reefer

By Don Rippert

Warm up the bongs. Adults in Virginia will be able to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use starting July 1. The bill originally passed by the General Assembly would have delayed that date until July 1, 2024. However, Governor Ralph Northam amended the bill and, after some haggling, the General Assembly accepted the amended bill. Unsurprisingly, the bill that ultimately passed got more than a little frayed in the back and forth between the General Assembly and the Governor. Continue reading

Podcast: How the General Assembly Has Changed

By Peter Galuszka

I haven’t contributed much to BR lately since I am slammed with non-Virginia work. I did manage to help out on a Podcast about how the General Assembly has changed the state over the last two years as Democrats have gained power.

This Podcast is produced by WTJU, the University of Virginia radio station. I do a weekly talk show on state politics and economics and, on occasion, work on Podcasts.

Joining me is Sally Hudson, a delegate from the Charlottesville area. She is Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics. Sally studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford and is one of the youngest members of the General Assembly.

I hope you enjoy it.

Northam Proposes Legal Marijuana in Va Within Two Years

by DJ Rippert

Ralph Reefer. On Wednesday the Northam Administration unveiled legislation to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Virginia. The legislation will be introduced by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and Del. Don Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth. Northam took up the cause of legalizing marijuana last November citing both racial equity and financial issues. Sale of legal marijuana would start by Jan 1, 2023, under the Northam plan. Continue reading

Employer COVID Mandates Might Outlive Pandemic

by Steve Haner

Virginia’s emergency temporary workplace standards on COVID-19 are one step closer to becoming permanent, over the continuing loud objections from employers that they are duplicative, expensive, and not making anybody any safer than existing health and safety protections already do.

UPDATE:  The text of the final permanent standard approved Wednesday was finally posted publicly Jan. 15.    Continue reading