Farmers brace for bad news as Gov. Kaine announces legislative agenda

By Jola Szubielski - bio | email

Posted by Colby Rogers

POWHATAN, VA (WWBT) - Gov. Tim Kaine will present his legislative agenda for 2009 today and farmers across central Virginia are bracing for the worst case scenario. Farmers have already been dealt a heavy blow with millions of dollars in cuts to the State Dept. of Agriculture and Forestry.

Billy Sifers, who owns a farm in Powhatan says that being part of the farming industry is becoming more difficult every year. Last September, the severe drought caused devastation to his corn and soybean crops - and his bottom line.

At the time of the drought, Gov. Kaine opened federal and state aid to farmers by declaring Powhatan, Amelia and Goochland counties disaster areas. Now, the state budget shortfall is threatening the livelihood of farmers across the state.

"It's going to be extensive," Sifers said, "It doesn't look goof for farmers. When you're in this line of work and this job, it's not just your family and yourself - it goes all across the board. There's a lot of people depending on you to make it."

In his first round of budget announcements in October, Gov. Kaine cut almost $8 million from the farming industry. The Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Dept. of Forestry all saw funding and staff positions slashed.

"Farmers that happen to be on a borderline situationv - that have significant crop losses that insurance is not going to make up - it could make a difference between whether they perform next year or not," Sifers said.

Sifers also also said that funding has been reduced for research coming from Virginia Tech and other agriculture industries.

"We depend on that for a lot of advancements," Sifer said, "What to dom when to do it, where to do it - and that won't be available."

Sifers says farmers will spend the next few months trying to figure out how to get by after suffering serious losses this past growing season, and bracing themselves for the next round of bad news.

"I've talked to some people with the Farm Service Agency and they can't do anything until they find out what the governor is going to do," Sifers said, "So everyone is in limbo right now. Nobody knows."

Despite the budget cuts, the Farm Bureau recognizes Kaine's efforts in support of Virginia farmers, including his release of the latest economic impact study of the state's farm and forest industry in September.

The governor's announcement is scheduled for 2 p.m Wednesday. Public hearings on the budget amendments begin across the state Thursday morning.

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