Our dear friends at Virginia Cooperative Extension are in trouble. The new state budget would eliminate the funding for Virginia's Viability Specialists and all of the incredible work they do to help create viable farmers markets, food systems and agricultural enterprises. The local food system needs to show that we value the services of the extension office. Please read on, then take action to let your delegate know that you support the folks who work in your local food system.
Here is info from a leader in the Richmond Area Food System who has done the leg work for us...
"The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) created the budget and voted on it (nothing can be done about that now)…they are now sending it along to the full House for acceptance (this is the time to contact any and all House members to object to HB30 Amendment 219)…after the acceptance (can’t see why it wouldn’t get approved by the body) the HAC gets the approved bill back for amendment in conference with the Senate Finance Committee (now through next week is a good time to contact any and all Senators). Those two committees will generate the compromise budget (and amend the language as they see fit) and pass the final compromise budget along to the Governor for acceptance. Once the budget gets out of the compromise process it’s over, unless the Governor sends it back for revision. Contacting the people on the HAC today and tomorrow is best today, however you can. Then move to any and all Delegates you’d like. Here are the folks that need contacting right now… HB 30 Budget Bill.
02/21/10 House: Reported from Appropriations with amendments (15-Y 7-N)
The House of Appropriations Committee proposed budget amendment was offered on Sunday, February 21. The amendment number is Item 219 #2H and is available on line at: http://leg2.state.va.us/WebData/10amend30.nsf/ab35158e9e81b1f48525688b005f54a7/91de82f03f2d46d7852576d200822379?OpenDocument
YEAS--Putney, Morgan, Tata, Ingram, May, Sherwood, Cox, M.K., Landes, Jones, O'Bannon, Lingamfelter, Poindexter, Massie, Abbitt, Dance--15. NAYS--Phillips, Scott, J.M., Joannou, Brink, Ware, O., Howell, A.T., BaCote--7. ABSTENTIONS--0. NOT VOTING--0. "
Here is a wonderful example letter that was sent by our friend Anne on the behalf of our viability specialist Jonah Fogel. Feel free to cut and paste when you write your own letter.
"February 23, 2010
Dear Ms. McQuinn,
I am writing you regarding the section in the House’s proposed budget that would eliminate Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Community Viability program.
I understand and sympathize with the difficult position that Virginia’s legislators have been put in due to fiscal constraints. That said I would like to express to you how much Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Community Viability program has meant to me.
I am a resident of the City of Richmond and a staff transportation planner for the Richmond Area MPO. I am also, outside of my job, a founding member and facilitator of the Richmond Area Food System Council (RAFSC) (http://www.richmondfoodsystem.org/), a not-for-profit, ad-hoc community group focused on strengthening the area’s local food system. The group is made up of consumers, producers, market managers, retailers, restaurateurs, and nutrition advocates, among others. As a planner, I am focused on our local food system’s ability to strengthen our local economy, affect land use and protect our environment. The Richmond Area Food System Council has been extremely well-received and needed by our community, urban and rural alike.
The only full-time, paid support that our group has had since our creation in 2007 has been from Dr. Jonah Fogel, a Community Viability Specialist from VCE’s Community Viability program. His consistent, objective support has been invaluable to our group’s success, and the affiliation with VCE has lent credibility and notoriety that we would never have had otherwise.
Dr. Fogel has been available to me and other members of RAFSC over the past years and has constantly provided research assistance, advice, meeting space and technical support. His objective attitude and careful approach has lent a gravity and professional quality to our efforts.
It is my belief that if the Community Viability program is eliminated, our group will suffer greatly, both from Dr. Fogel’s absence and from the lack of affiliation with VCE.
Please do everything in your power to keep funding for this important program. Your efforts will not go unnoticed by your constituents. "
You can find your delegate's contact information here. http://dela.state.va.us/dela/MemBios.nsf/MWebsiteTL?OpenView
Please take a moment and contact your Representatives and ask them not to support a bill that would cut funding for this invaluable resource.