RICHMOND—Eighty-one Virginia House of Delegates candidates, including Del. Terry Austin, R-Buchanan, have been endorsed by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation AgPAC, the organization’s nonpartisan political action committee.
Austin was endorsed for his support of the agriculture industry. He is seeking re-election in November.
Changes made this year to Farm Bureau’s procedure for determining political endorsements are expected to help the organization build better relationships with legislators—especially urban ones.
Previously, candidates were endorsed based on recommendations of local farmer committees, which worked well in agricultural districts. However, there were challenges for members evaluating urban races, because the farmer evaluation committees had to determine designations for unknown candidates, or those representing non-agricultural districts.
“We noticed two years ago, our members struggled with how to issue endorsements for someone we don’t really have a track record for,” explained Martha Moore, vice president of VFBF governmental relations.
The new model allowed farmers to educate urban candidates on agricultural issues at a series of in-person roundtable events.
“Our main goal is establishing relationships, but if an urban candidate doesn’t have farm constituencies, they might not know anything about agriculture,” Moore said. “We looked at their committees and picked issues they could influence—agriculture, appropriations, natural resources. And there was a dialogue back and forth.”
Four separate roundtable events were held for Democrat and Republican candidates in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia in 2021. Following the roundtables, farmer participants were asked if they felt the candidates supported Farm Bureau’s positions. Based on that information, AgPAC made recommendations regarding urban endorsements.
“This grassroots evaluation gives us a sense of candidates’ comprehension of the needs and challenges facing Virginia farmers,” said Wayne F. Pryor, VFBF president and chairman of the VFBF AgPAC board of trustees. “Our updated endorsement-designation process is a fresh opportunity to establish deeper connections with both supportive incumbents and urban candidates alike.”
AgPAC was created by Farm Bureau in 1999 and employs in-kind contributions to support candidates who can best support agriculture and Farm Bureau issues.