INTERVIEW: Agriculture secretary reveals legislative agenda

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – As the General Assembly makes its way to Richmond next week, the McDonnell administration is rolling out proposals to boost two of Virginia's biggest industries, Agriculture and Forestry. And the secretary of that department, Todd Haymore, joins us now to talk more about his plan.

Ryan Nobles: It makes sense that we have you here after we have the story about the rising price of food. That's something you're dealing with a lot in your department.

Todd Haymore: It's always something in Agriculture and Forestry. We try to make sure we're doing the best we can so we can have a safe wholesome food supply for the citizens and that's one more issue we have to deal request.

Ryan Nobles: People might be surprised at the level of oversight that you have as the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. You're in the just planting trees and promoting dairy farms. You have plans this year to travel on trade missions to Cuba, China, and Europe, promoting the commonwealth. How do these trips benefit the average Virginian?

Todd Haymore: The governor has asked me to be Virginia's chief marketing and development officer and he said if I'm sitting in Richmond, I'm not doing a good job, so it means going out and working with these countries all around the world that want our products and are willing to pay premium prices for it. So it's a combination of working with private sector companies here in Virginia and working with governments and other countries, institutions in other countries, trying to open doors and move products in the global marketplace. I have an ambitious schedule for 2011.

Ryan Nobles: Virginia exports 25 million dollars in goods to Cuba each year. I was surprised to learn this. How does it work?

Todd Haymore: It was determined legal to sell agricultural products to Cuba in the early 2000s and since 2003 we've been dealing with the Cubans. We have sold about $800,000 worth of products then. Last year, we had about $55 million worth of goods, as this year we're down because of the economic recession, but we continue to work with the Cubans. They like soybeans, apples, poultry, they like our pork products, so every day that we can push those doors open further for our producers is another good day for them.

Ryan Nobles: And what are the big places that -- one of the big places you continue to place an emphasis is the growing Virginia wine industry. What are you going to do in 2011 to expand that even more?

Todd Haymore: We have a lot of things going on, not only here in Virginia, trying to get more restaurants and retailers to buy Virginia wine, but we looking to expand the footprint beyond Virginia, going into places in Europe, the United Kingdom, Asia, China. I had a telephone conversation this afternoon with a gentleman interested in exporting wine to China. So Virginia wines are getting on the map, literally and figuratively, and we're here to help them do that. We're the first administration to really place a strong focus on wine and the vineyards around the state, it's one of the fastest growing sectors of agriculture and very easily identifiable, not only producing great products, but driving tour into the state. It has a lot of economic impact on the state.

Ryan Nobles: It sounds like you're busy so you probably don't need to sit here and talk to me much longer.

Todd Haymore: Appreciate it.

Ryan Nobles: Thank you for being here, good luck in the upcoming year.

Todd Haymore: Thank you.

See the video at right for the full interview.

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