WASHINGTON – Today, President Trump signed into law a compromise package that includes Virginia priorities championed by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA). These include an increase in funding for Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts, protections for Virginia agricultural products, increased protections to prevent animal abuse, and funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The 2018 Farm Bill also includes a Warner-Kaine sponsored measure to legalize industrial hemp production, a crop which is already cultivated for research purposes in Virginia but which the agriculture industry cannot currently grow for commercial use.
“We are proud this bipartisan legislation finally ending a ban that has held back our farmers from participating in the emerging industrial hemp market has been signed into law. This is an industry that will help bring new business to Virginia and create new jobs,” said the Senators. “This compromise bill is a big win for Virginia, adding measures to expand successful Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts, protect Virginia commodities like dairy and cotton, and maintain funding for a nutrition assistance program that Virginia families depend on.”
Warner and Kaine’s priorities for Virginia in the 2018 Farm Bill include:
Hemp Farming Act: a bill that would remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, allowing Virginia farmers to grow and sell the plant as an agricultural commodity. States would be given authority to regulate hemp, and hemp researchers will be able to apply for USDA grants. Hemp farmers would also be eligible to collect crop insurance under this provision. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized industrial hemp to be made available for agricultural research purposes. Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the University of Virginia, and James Madison University have been active in hemp research in recent years. However, Congress must act in order to legalize hemp production for commercial purposes. Hemp is distinct from marijuana in that it has a miniscule concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and thus no narcotic capability. The plant is estimated to be used in more than 25,000 products spanning agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food, nutrition, beverages, paper, construction materials, and personal care.
Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act: a bill which makes technical changes to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) intended to bring more federal conservation funding into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Farm Bill triples mandatory funding for RCPP from $100 million to $300 million providing farmers with the tools they need to implement effective conservation practices within the Bay watershed. These changes will improve sustainability across the region and result in a cleaner, healthier Chesapeake Bay.
Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI): includes a technical change to the HFFI program that would allow both retailers and enterprises to be eligible for loans and grants under HFFI. Currently, only brick-and-mortar operations are able to receive funding through the HFFI program. This technical change could allow more non-traditional food access projects – such as mobile markets, farmers markets, and food banks to access HFFI funds. These changes closely follow Sen. Warner’s efforts in the Senate to eradicate food deserts.
Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act: a bill that expands existing federal domestic violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a victim’s pet, and provides grant funding to programs that offer shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence victims with pets. The Farm Bill authorizes $3 million a year for FY2019-2023 for a grant program that will provide emergency and transitional housing assistance for victims of domestic violence and their pets.
In the wake of President Trump’s ongoing trade war, the Farm Bill also includes a significant investment in trade promotion programs and activities. Trade Promotion is used by the United States to pursue trade agreements that support and create U.S. jobs while helping American manufacturers, service providers, farmers, and ranchers increase U.S. exports and compete in a highly competitive, globalized economy.
In addition, the bill includes measures to protect the U.S. dairy and cotton industry. It streamlines a program that allows dairy producers to insure margins—the difference between the prices of milk and feed—and increases its funding. The bill also makes cotton once again eligible to participate in federal crop insurance programs, which are used by farmers to protect themselves against either the loss of their crops due to natural disasters, or the loss of revenue due to declines in the prices of agricultural commodities. Livestock producers will also receive assistance through a new program that will give USDA the authority to operate a disease and disaster prevention program and a vaccine bank, including for foot and mouth disease. The bill also reauthorizes full funding to help vulnerable Virginia families put food on the table through SNAP.
For more information on the 2018 Farm Bill, click here.
Governor Northam announces Statewide 2020 Census Week of Action
~ Activities promote participation in the upcoming census, encourage Virginians to take action in their communities ~
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today invited Virginians across the Commonwealth to participate in a 2020 Census week of action tomorrow through next Friday. Events throughout the week encourage Virginia residents to learn more about what’s at stake in the 2020 Census and to take action in their communities to help ensure Virginia has a complete and accurate count.
“An accurate count in the 2020 Census will support our efforts to build a Commonwealth for all Virginians and paint a more complete picture of the diverse voices that make up our state,” said Governor Northam. “I urge all Virginians to take part in the 2020 Census week of action and learn about how you can raise awareness about the upcoming census in your community.”
Virginians throughout the Commonwealth can help promote the census by taking part in the following activities.
Friday, February 21 – Sunday, February 23 | Interfaith Engagement
This weekend, faith-based organizations and communities are encouraged to share information about the 2020 Census with their parishioners by incorporating messaging into their sermons, lectures, or other teachings, and by including information in programs, bulletins, and newsletters. Faith-based organizations and communities can access the Virginia Complete Count Commission’s Interfaith Engagement Toolkit here.
Monday, February 24 | Engaging Virginia’s Seniors
Facilities and organizations that support Virginia’s seniors are encouraged to share information about the 2020 Census. Additionally, families are encouraged to create a plan of action for completing the 2020 Census with the seniors in their lives.
Older Virginians and their loved ones are also asked to mark their calendars for Wednesday, March 4 and join the 2020 Census Tele-Townhall hosted by the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and AARP Virginia. From protecting themselves against census scams to letting family caregivers know how to help their loved ones, the Tele-Townhall will offer important information to help people make sure they are counted. Details about how to participate in the 2020 Census Tele-Townhall will be made available here.
Tuesday, February 25 | College Students’ “Talk About It Tuesday”
Colleges and universities are encouraged to educate students and faculty about the importance of the 2020 Census. Students are encouraged to participate in “Talk About It Tuesday” by talking to their parents and guardians to create a plan of action for completing the 2020 Census. College Students can find information on student enumeration here.
Wednesday, February 26 | Let’s “Get Social” (on Media)
Virginians can “Get Social” (on Media) by following Virginia’s Census engagement efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Virginians are also invited to participate in a Twitter chat about what’s at stake in the 2020 Census. Questions can be tweeted to @CountOnVirginia. Promote the Census using the hashtags #Census2020 #VACompleteCount #CountOnVirginia.
Pledge to be Counted
The Northam administration recently announced a partnership with CommunityConnect Labs to use mobile messaging to connect with hard-to-reach populations. On Wednesday, February 26, Virginians are encouraged to “Pledge to be Counted” by texting the word “PLEDGE” or “CENSO” (Español) to the number for their respective locality. Participants will receive a digital pledge card that can be shared on social media. Standard text messaging data rates may apply.
Valley: (540) 235-5155
Northern: (703) 684-0007 or (571) 200-0828
Coastal: (757) 210-3232
Southside: (434) 201-4884
Southwest: (276) 218-8138
Central: (804) 203-0393
“We are excited to use our new text messaging platform to reach Virginians all over the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “We know that text and other mobile messaging is one of the best ways to reach underserved populations, especially those populations that are historically hard-to-count in the census.”
Thursday, February 27 | Counting Our Youngest Virginians
It is estimated that upwards of 5 percent of children under the age of four went uncounted in the 2010 Census. On Thursday, early childhood care and education centers are encouraged to share information with parents and guardians about the 2020 Census and the importance of young children born on or before April 1, 2020 (Census Day), being counted. Information on the enumeration of children ages 0-4 can be found here.
Friday, February 28 | K-12 “Census in Schools”
Educators and school administrators are encouraged to learn about how they can incorporate the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools (SIS) program into their lessons and classroom activities. The SIS program uses census statistics to create classroom materials for grades pre-K through 12. Learn more about the SIS program here.
Additionally, Parent-Teacher Associations are encouraged to share information on the importance of the 2020 Census through newsletters and on social media—highlighting the value of programs such as Head Start, school breakfasts and lunches, and how 2020 Census data will support these efforts.
About the Virginia Complete Count Commission
On December 18, 2018, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Twenty-Seven establishing the Virginia Complete Count Commission. The purpose of the Commission is to improve participation and representation of all Virginians in the 2020 Census. The Commission facilitates the sharing of ideas and community resources regarding the 2020 Census and serves as a conduit between the Commonwealth and the United States Census Bureau.
The Virginia Complete Count Commission serves as a trusted voice and resource to educate, empower, and engage all communities for the purpose of ensuring that everyone who lives in the Commonwealth of Virginia is counted in the 2020 Census.
For more information on the 2020 Census and Virginia Complete Count Commission, visit census.virginia.gov or follow @CountOnVirginia on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Virginia Senior Alert Activation: Fairfax man missing
The Virginia State Police has issued a senior alert on behalf of Fairfax Police Department on February 19, 2020, at 9:00 p.m.
The Fairfax Police Department is looking for William Shaw, a white male, 85-years-old, height: 6’1”, weight: 225 lbs., with grey eyes and grey hair. He was last seen on February 19, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. on Clara Barton Road, driving a 2008 white Toyota Sienna, VA Registration 258-2BBE. He was last seen wearing a green jacket and jeans.
The missing senior suffers from a cognitive impairment, and the disappearance poses a credible threat to his health and safety as determined by the investigating agency.
Please contact the Fairfax Police Department with any information regarding his whereabouts at 1-703-691-2131, or you may find complete information at www.vasenioralert.com.
Governor Northam announces new funding to preserve farmland
~ $350,000 for permanent conservation easements in Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier, and Stafford counties, cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach ~
On February 19, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam announced $350,000 in grants from the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund to help six localities protect their farm and forest land. The grants will be used as matching funds to permanently preserve working lands through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs.
The grant recipients for the fiscal year 2020 are Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier, and Stafford counties, and the cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. PDR programs empower localities to limit development on priority farm and forest lands and provide an incentive to landowners who want to protect their working lands by voluntarily securing a perpetual conservation easement.
“As Virginia’s largest private industry, agriculture plays a vital role in maintaining our strong economy and outstanding quality of life,” said Governor Northam. “Through this program, localities are helping us identify the working farm and forest lands that are most important to conserve for agricultural and forestry production, and working to ensure that future generations of Virginians can benefit from cleaner air and cleaner water.”
Since the program’s inception in 2008, Virginia has provided matching funds for certified local PDR programs to 23 localities, allocating $12.8 million to protect more than 14,100 acres on 105 farms. In August, Governor Northam celebrated the milestone of surpassing more than 100 conservation easements through the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund. Conservation easements supported by this program ensure that protected lands stay intact as working farms and forests in perpetuity.
“Conserving working farm and forest lands is crucial to maintaining Virginia’s economy, through the agricultural and forestry industries and agritourism,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Keeping farms in production conserves open spaces and provides economic, environmental, and social benefits to local communities and to the Commonwealth as a whole.”
Localities interested in doing more to protect their vital working farms and forestlands by creating a PDR program or implementing other best practices should contact Jen Perkins, Coordinator, Office of Farmland Preservation at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, at Jennifer.Perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov or (804) 786-1906.
CANCELLED: Virginia Senior Alert Activation: Newport News woman missing
The Virginia State Police has issued a senior alert on behalf of Newport News Police Department on February 17, 2020 at 6:30 a.m.
The Newport News Police Department is looking for Marva Keyser, a black female, 77-years-old, 150 lbs., with hazel eyes and brown hair. She was last seen on February 16, 2020, at 9:30 p.m., on Wellesley Drive. She was last seen wearing a light jacket, long sleeve shirt – black and pink in color, red shorts just past the knees, and white/gray/red shoes.
The missing senior suffers from a cognitive impairment and the disappearance poses a credible threat to her health and safety as determined by the investigating agency.
Please contact the Newport News Police Department with any information regarding her whereabouts at 1-757-928-4100, option 4, or you may find complete information at www.vasenioralert.com.
The Virginia Senior Alert for Ms. Keyser of Newport News has been cancelled. The Newport News Police Department is reporting that she was safely located.
International Space Station resupply mission launches from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport
~ Spacecraft named in honor of first African American astronaut ~
RICHMOND—The 13th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station successfully launched Saturday, February 15 at 3:21 p.m. from Wallops Island. The mission will deliver 8,009 pounds of cargo to the space station.
The “NG-13” mission is a partnership of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space), NASA Wallops Flight Facility, and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. The spacecraft launched from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad 0A.
Northrop Grumman named the NG-13 spacecraft after former astronaut Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. He became the first African American astronaut in 1967 when the Air Force selected him as a member of the third group of astronauts for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. Major Lawrence served in the United States Air Force as an officer and pilot, accumulating more than 2,500 flight hours, including 2,000 in jets. He spent much of his career training other pilots in cutting-edge flight maneuvers and techniques. His Air Force honors included the Commendation Medal and the Outstanding Unit Citation.
“Today’s launch is delivering equipment to the International Space Station, where astronauts are advancing scientific understanding,” said Governor Northam. “This important mission honors the legacy of Major Robert Lawrence, who dedicated his career to advancing science through flight.”
NASA and its partners have successfully supported humans continuously living in space since the Expedition 1 crew arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on November 2, 2000. The unique microgravity laboratory has hosted 239 people from 19 countries, more than 2,600 experiments from 3,900 researchers in more than 107 countries, and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The space station also is facilitating the growth of a robust commercial market in low-Earth orbit for research, technology development, and crew and cargo transportation.
“The world-class infrastructure and technology on Wallops Island are expanding opportunities for science, research, national security, and ISS cargo resupply missions,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Collaboration among the Commonwealth, Virginia Space, and NASA Wallops will continue to grow the potential of this strategic national asset and gateway to space.”
The Commonwealth built MARS Pad 0A to accommodate the Antares 230+ rocket configuration and Cygnus spacecraft. Modifications in 2019 made it possible to accommodate the loading of time-sensitive experiments into the Cygnus spacecraft up to 24 hours before liftoff, shortening the previous four-day pre-loading requirement. This is the second official mission to use this loading capability, which has made the MARS facility eligible for missions that include life science investigations in the payload.
This will be the second mission under Northrop Grumman’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract with NASA, for which the company will fly a minimum of six missions to the ISS through 2024.
The Antares rocket will boost an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft carrying more than 8,000 pounds of payload to the ISS that includes scientific investigations, supplies, and vehicle hardware for the orbital laboratory and its crew.
The scientific investigations launching on Cygnus are part of commercial and academic payloads across a variety of disciplines, including:
• Mobile SpaceLab, tissue and cell culturing facility for sophisticated microgravity biology experiments.
• Mochii, a miniature scanning electron microscope for analysis of small and microscopic particles in space. This onsite imaging and measurement of particles could be a game-changer for microgravity research in Low Earth Orbit.
• OsteoOmics, an experiment to investigate astronaut bone loss due to a lack of gravity while they are in orbit. The study of signaling pathways, as well as gene and protein expression, could also have implications for patients on Earth.
• Phage Evolution, an investigation that aims to improve understanding of the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on bacteriophages (viruses that specifically invade and destroy bacteria without harming human cells) and hosts. This could result in significant developments for phage technology, which would ultimately help protect the health of astronauts on future missions. Targeted phage therapy to eliminate harmful bacteria without causing large-scale damage to a human’s microbiome is currently being utilized on Earth as an alternative to antibiotics in an age of increasing antibiotic resistance.
• Saffire-IV, a fire suppression investigation that will aid understanding of how fires spread in space and will support the development of flame-resistant materials and fire prevention measures. The experiment uses the Cygnus resupply vehicle after it leaves the space station, thereby eliminating exposure of humans or spacecraft to fire danger.
The Cygnus spacecraft will spend about three months attached to the space station. It will then depart the station, the Saffire-IV experiment will be activated, and the spacecraft will deorbit.
“Virginia Space continues to provide reliable ground support systems and personnel through maintenance and operation of MARS Pad 0A, the homeport of the Antares rocket,” said Dale Nash, Executive Director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. “The strong and strategic public-public-private partnership of Virginia Space, NASA Goddard’s Wallops Flight Facility, and Northrop Grumman is a unique collaboration that contributes to ongoing mission success.”
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia Space owns and operates the MARS Spaceport, the MARS Payload Processing Facility, and the MARS Unmanned Systems Test Range. The facilities are all located on the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where their mission is to provide low-cost, safe, reliable, “schedule-friendly” access to space and secure facilities for testing of unmanned vehicles for integration into the National Air Space. Virginia continues to play a key role in national security and assured access to space, as one of only four states in the United States hosting a spaceport licensed by the FAA to launch spacecraft into orbit or on interplanetary trajectories. For more information, visit vaspace.org.
Governor Northam announces plans to protect migratory birds
Governor Ralph Northam today announced a comprehensive approach to address the loss of habitat for colonial nesting birds on the South Island of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT), and create a backstop against the federal government’s failure to protect migratory birds.
The South Island is where construction equipment will be based during the expansion of the HRBT, a project critical for reducing congestion and improving safety in eastern Virginia. It is the largest project ever for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
The South Island is an artificial island where the bridge transitions to a tunnel. Since the HRBT was constructed in the 1950s, South Island has become the nesting site for as many as 25,000 migratory birds, including terns, gulls, and other colonial nesting species.
Virginia is acting because, in 2018, federal officials reinterpreted a longstanding provision of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, passed into law in 1918, to significantly limit the protections it provides for migratory birds. Had this federal policy remained unchanged, it would have protected the birds on South Island.
The plan for migratory birds includes these components:
• New policy backstop. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has initiated the process to develop a regulation to define and permit “incidental take” of migratory birds for major commercial, industrial, and construction projects in the Commonwealth. This rule would make Virginia one of the first states to “backstop” recent federal rollbacks of longstanding migratory bird protections. DGIF will release a discussion draft of the rule for comment in the coming weeks.
• New habitat for nesting. DGIF will provide habitat for nesting waterbirds by preparing an artificial island adjacent to the HRBT, known as Rip Raps Island (The Department of Conservation and Recreation owns the island, which is also known as Fort Wool.). In addition, DGIF will seek authorization to procure and position barges to provide additional nesting habitat in advance of the upcoming nesting season.
• Bird management plan. Before construction begins, the HRBT design-builder will develop a bird management plan to ensure effective deterrence of nesting and treatment of nests, eggs, and young that may become established on the HRBT’s South Island. The firm will do this in consultation with VDOT and DGIF.
• Study possible new long-term habitat. DGIF will accelerate its work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assess the feasibility of creating an artificial island to provide long-term habitat for displaced waterbirds.
• Restoring habitat after construction. Upon completion of construction, VDOT will restore a portion of nesting habitat on South Island to the maximum extent possible.
• Ongoing study: Interactions of Infrastructure and Natural Resources. VDOT and Virginia’s Chief Resiliency Officer commissioned the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to study interactions among transportation infrastructure, migratory birds and other wildlife, and climate change in coastal Virginia.
“This plan demonstrates that infrastructure and development can and must be compatible with wildlife conservation,” said Governor Northam. “It also shows that Virginia is stepping up when federal policies change environmental protections.”
“Infrastructure projects succeed when they are built in harmony with all of the Commonwealth’s priorities,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Working together here in Virginia, I believe we have found an approach that puts us on a path to success.”
“Virginia is a world-class outdoor recreation destination, and the birds using the Atlantic Flyway that stops along our shores are a big reason why,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Protecting wildlife resources is challenging under the best of circumstances and it becomes even harder when federal partners weaken longstanding policies.”
The Office of the Governor and relevant agencies will continue this work and will be prepared to accommodate the birds when they return for the spring 2020 nesting season and beyond. Additional details will be provided soon.
Contracts to expand the HRBT include a fixed completion date of November 1, 2025.
For additional information about the Commonwealth’s plan to protect migratory birds click here.