Wexton Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Support Virginia Agritourism Businesses
Washington, January 13, 2022
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the bipartisan Accelerating the Growth of Rural Innovation and Tourism Opportunities to Uphold Rural Industries and Sustainable Marketplaces (AGRITOURISM) Act. The bill would create an Office of Agritourism at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to serve as a dedicated voice for agritourism businesses in the federal government and to consolidate information on federal resources available to agritourism business owners. Wexton founded the bipartisan Congressional Agritourism Caucus in 2019.
“Agritourism has unlocked new economic potential for small, family-owned farms in rural areas across Virginia and throughout the country -- yet I’ve heard from too many business owners in our region that it is difficult to access or to even find out about federal resources available to help cultivate these businesses,” said Rep. Jennifer Wexton. “A dedicated Office of Agritourism would help these small farms get the support they need to start and sustain their agritourism businesses, like loans and grants, access to broadband connectivity programs, promotion of agritourism activities, and best practices. As founder of the bipartisan Congressional Agritourism Caucus, I'm proud to be a voice for these businesses in Washington, who are crucial drivers of rural economies here in our district.”
“From our world-class wineries and breweries to local orchards, dairies, and farmers markets, agritourism is a vital part of Central Washington's economy. I am proud to introduce the Agritourism Act to ensure that agritourism businesses have an advocate within USDA which will in turn help preserve our important agriculture traditions and honor our way of life,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse.
Establishing an Office of Agritourism within USDA would provide an advocate for these businesses within the federal government, promote the development of agritourism activities across the country, and ensure federal resources to provide assistance to agritourism businesses are readily accessible to business owners.
Agritourism is a successful and expanding industry throughout the country. According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, agritourism-related income jumped from $202 million in 2002 to $949 million in 2017 -- a nearly 370% increase. In communities like those represented by Wexton, agritourism has enabled small farmers to expand their businesses and increase profits, which has boosted local economies while maintaining the rural character of the region.
“Loudoun county has long been recognized for striking the balance between economic development and understanding the importance of retaining the stunning attributes of the rural western part of the county,” said Beth Erickson, President & CEO, Visit Loudoun. “Congresswoman Wexton’s commitment to agritourism supports large and small farms, producing a variety of products; vineyards, farm wineries and breweries; lodging and restaurants; as well as equestrian facilities, event venues and recreation assets. These businesses not only contribute to our economy by providing jobs and wages, they attract both visitors and residents whose spending generates important tax revenue, benefiting the entire county and the Commonwealth. We are grateful for Congresswoman Wexton’s leadership.”
“The NAFDMA International Agritourism Association is excited by the introduction of this legislation and the awareness it brings to the growing industry of Agritourism in the agriculture sector. Many farms continue to look for new diversification options and ways to connect directly with their consumers, and agritourism can be that ideal fit. This legislation may allow USDA to incorporate agritourism more fully into their service portfolio,” said Suzi Spahr, Executive Director of the NAFDMA International Agritourism Association.
The AGRITOURISM Act is supported by the North American Farmers' Direct Marketing Association, Inc. (International Agritourism Association) and WineAmerica.
The full text of the AGRITOURISM Act can be found here.