BLACKSBURG — Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced on Thursday plans to include funding for new and renovated livestock, poultry, and equine facilities at Virginia Tech as one part of a proposed $2.43 billion bond package.
The proposed facilities are one of many capital improvement projects around the state aimed at strengthening the commonwealth’s research and economic development infrastructure. The bond package, along with the rest of the governor's two-year budget, is subject to General Assembly approval.
“We are very pleased that the governor has included these facilities in his proposed budget and continues to be an enthusiastic advocate for agriculture,” said Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “His support highlights the vital role that Virginia Tech plays in helping grow the economy through research, education, and Virginia Cooperative Extension.”
Agriculture, which is by far the largest industry in Virginia, has an annual economic impact of more than $52 billion and provides nearly 311,000 jobs around the state. The livestock, poultry, and equine sectors yield $1.8 billion in cash receipts annually and form the backbone of the state’s agricultural sector. These industries rely on the research and workforce development that Virginia Tech provides.
Virginia’s more than 26,000 beef cattle producers help make the commonwealth one of the top 20 cattle-producing states in the nation. Pork is among Virginia’s main agricultural exports and is tied to more than 8,600 jobs in the state. Broilers and turkeys are the largest portion of Virginia’s agriculture sector and contribute $8 billion to the commonwealth’s economy. The Virginia equine industry supports more than 16,000 jobs and had an impact of more than $502 million on the labor market in 2010.
The governor’s proposal comes on the heels of other investments the state and the university have made in agriculture programs in recent years.
In summer 2015, the first phase of the new Dairy Science Complex – Kentland Farm was completed, which bolsters the long-term success of Virginia Tech’s award-winning dairy science program and contributes to the land-grant mission of the university. At the complex, students are examining modern issues in dairy science alongside researchers who are working on solving challenges and sharing those solutions with Virginia Cooperative Extension. It was financed with university general funds.
In fall 2015, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved the proposed design of the second phase of the dairy science complex. In this new series of buildings, scientists and students from the Department of Dairy Science, the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, the Agricultural Technology Program, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and as well as colleagues across the state and country will be able to work collaboratively.
The facilities in the governor’s bond represent the first of two stages in a proposal to build or renovate livestock, poultry, and equine buildings in Blacksburg.
“This has been a tremendous time of growth for the college that is going to benefit everyone, from students and researchers here on campus to Extension agents and producers around the state,” Grant said.
The governor’s bond proposal also includes significant expansion of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, new classrooms and research space in the College of Engineering, and the second phase of a Central Chiller Plant, which supplies chilled water for cooling to campus buildings.
For the College of Engineering, the departments of Mining and Minerals Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering will receive a boost in lab, classroom, and office space as Holden Hall is fully renovated and expanded. The addition will feature a laboratory for students from both departments to collaborate, taking raw materials extracted from the earth and through molecular engineering create new products for autos, computers, solar and fuel cells, home appliances, and health care.