Agribusiness top of mind for region’s governors


Above: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee

The governors of Tennessee and Virginia are both making the case for increased funding for agribusiness.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam last week announced GO Virginia funding in the amount of more than $310,000 for an effort in Lee, Scott and Wise counties is far Southwest Virginia. Under the auspices of the Smart Farming at the Center for Workforce and Innovation of Appalachia, Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) will offer students hands-on drone training and the ability to earn national credentials for FAA drone operations, agricultural inspections, and pesticide spraying.

The program will leverage existing federal funding to expand the unmanned systems coursework with two new capstone courses on smart farming and the use of technology to improve farming techniques, increase yields, and maximize agricultural profits. The additional courses will allow MECC to offer the first Unmanned Aerial Systems Associates Degree (AAS) in the Virginia Community College System (VCCS).

Across the state line to the southwest, Governor Bill Lee was in Gray, Tenn., Friday addressing a crowd of around 600 at the Sixth Annual Washington County Agriculture and Business Appreciation Dinner. Lee said Tennessee would do a better job of incentivizing education and training for students interested in farming or farm-related business. Lee spoke of the inclusion in his proposed budget of new recurring funding for both FFA and 4-H youth programs. The Tennessee General Assembly has yet to approve the 2019-2020 budget.

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