McDonnell dedicates new ag complex for Pittsylvania County
By ROCKY WOMACK
Chatham, Va.— The trend these days for agricultural services focuses on producing a one-stop-shop environment for farmers.
This was evident when Pittsylvania County, Va., recently dedicated its new 100,000-square foot facility, the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex, north of Chatham along U.S. Route 29.
In late February, county leaders and government dignitaries — including the commonwealth’s governor — celebrated a dream come true for, not only the county, but for the state’s No. 1 industry.
Gov. Bob McDonnell told the large crowd that agriculture in the state generates more than $55 billion in revenue every year — which is first, just ahead of forest products.
In addition, Virginia agriculture produces reportedly more than 357,000 jobs in the state, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture in Richmond, Va.
“Agriculture is a staple of the economy around our great commonwealth,” McDonnell said. “As I mentioned, it is far and away our largest industry, and that’s why I’m here and why we’re going to do so much to continue to promote agriculture.”
Agriculture is an important part of the county as well, which is ranked ninth in the state among total value of products sold, amounting to more than $62 million, according to the latest census (2007) from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“Flue-cured tobacco was the largest in gross cash receipts (among row crops) for the 2010 crop,” said Stephen Barts, a Pittsylvania County Extension agent. “Tobacco cash receipts totaled $16 million based on a 2,480-pound average yield.”
He added that the county grew between 5,100 and 5,200 acres of flue-cured tobacco in 2010, which was up from 4,700 acres in 2009.
Behind tobacco in cash receipts were wheat, hay, corn for silage, soybeans and corn, respectively.
Dairy cows and beef cattle are also large revenue makers for the county’s farmers. According to NASS, Pittsylvania County had 1,356 farms with more than 274,000 acres in 2007.
However, the average size of farms had declined to 202 acres, compared with 221 acres reported in the 2002 census.
It’s no wonder Pittsylvania county leaders were proud of their dream for a one-stop agricultural facility, which includes offices, a 53,000-square foot livestock arena, a 500-seat banquet and lecture hall, and an onsite farmers market.
The facility will house the USDA’s county Farm Service Agency, Cooperative Extension, Soil and Water Conservation Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Ag Development Office and county Farm Bureau.
Paul Ashworth, president of the Olde Dominion Agricultural Foundation, said it was amazing what people can accomplish if they don’t care who receives the credit.
“This complex can have a key role in determining the future and providing opportunities for the growth of agriculture, because as the governor said, agriculture is important to our state; it’s important to our nation; and we want to be a part of ensuring that Southern Virginia continues to be a part of agriculture for this country.”
It likely will, and the complex will serve surrounding counties, as well, including Henry, Halifax, Campbell, Franklin and Bedford.
“Many others will benefit from this center being here,” McDonnell said, “and I think most importantly what we are trying to do across state government is to create convenience, to make government work better for you, more transparent, great one-stop shops, and that’s what this will be. That will promote economic activity. It will promote job creation that is still the top priority for our administration.”
During his own stop that day, the governor said his office and county leaders are working together to improve safety and promote economic development opportunities.
He announced that the Virginia Department of Transportation will make needed access and safety improvements outside the ag complex because of the speed and large volume of traffic along U.S. Route 29, a road that stretches from Northern Virginia into North Carolina.
The first work that the VDOT will perform is to install new acceleration and de-acceleration lanes going northbound and southbound, so people can more easily enter the ag complex.
The governor also announced that a $50,000 grant was coming from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Water Quality Improvement Fund, Southern River’s Program.
He said the grant will further Pittsylvania County’s efforts, on behalf of the ag complex, to make improvements to the public wastewater treatment system.
“That’s important with a facility of this size,” the governor said. “So, you can see in addition to boosted economic development and the convenience of one-stop shopping, these improvements of the wastewater system also will help hundreds of families and businesses from Chatham to Gretna, across the county and across the region to be able to grow and to prosper.”