The day before taking a tour of some of western Loudoun’s agribusiness draws, Rep. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-VA-10) announced the creation of the Congressional Agritourism Caucus with co-chairman Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC-7).
“There are a lot of districts like mine you have this suburban component going to rural, and it’s important that we’re able to preserve the rural parts of Virginia,” Wexton said during her tour the next day. “That’s why a lot of us moved here in the first place.”
The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture showed agritourism-related income more than doubling in Loudoun from 2012 to 2017, drawing in $4.95 million for Loudoun’s farms in 2017. But it also showed that in the same time, Loudoun lost 137 farms and 12,860 acres of farmland—20 square miles, a loss of 9.5 percent of Loudoun’s farmland. Loudoun lost farmland at a greater rate than the state average, and nearly twice as fast as the five previous years in Loudoun.
“A lot of it will be about sharing expertise, but another part of it is to see how the federal government can help encourage this sort of family farming and the ability of small businesses and small agritourism businesses to be able to do what they want,” Wexton said.
So far, no other members of Congress have committed to the caucus with Wexton and Rouzer, she said—”we’re literally just getting it off the ground.” But she said anybody representing a district with an agricultural economy is a potential member.
“So many of us moved to Loudoun because we love beautiful western Loudoun—the wineries, the farms, the open farmland—and there are a lot of pressures on those folks to sell out to developers,” Wexton said.
“Loudoun’s abundance of diverse and popular rural business attractions are not only valuable economic assets, they define our County’s brand and sustain our community’s rich agricultural culture and heritage,” stated Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Howard. “Where else in the world can a business locate where the epicenter of the internet exists just minutes from the nation’s finest wineries and breweries, farms, trails, equestrian facilities? That’s the value of nurturing an agritourism economy.”
“North Carolina’s agriculture industry is the backbone of our state’s economy—generating $87 billion in economic activity and employing 730,000 people,”Rouzer stated “Agritourism is a growing economic sector nationwide and gives farmers opportunities to find new sources of income, promotes economic stability, and helps visitors from across the nation learn more about what North Carolina’s farms have to offer.”
Rouzer’s 7th District is the southernmost congressional district in North Carolina, including Wilmington, Concord and Goldsboro. It is a largely rural district.
The announcement came as Wexton spent part of the August recess touring agricultural businesses in the 110th District, including at Loudoun Georges Mill Farm, Barnhouse Brewery, Roots 657 Café and Local Market, Willowcraft Farm Vineyards, Cox Farms, and Quattro Goombas Winery and Craft Brewery.