This past week on our Agriculture and Small Business Tour, I traveled across the Fifth District making over 30 stops in Franklin, Bedford, Lunenburg, Charlotte, Campbell, Fauquier, Madison, Nelson, Pittsylvania, Charlottesville, and Danville. I visited a variety of farming operations including beef, dairy, grain, berry, apple, and other crop producers. I also met with small businesses that are end users of crops produced by Fifth District farmers including a juice company, a saw mill, and small breweries. Additionally, I met with the next generation of farmers by visiting Ag classes and school greenhouses at Randolph-Henry and Fauquier High Schools.
Agriculture is the backbone of our economy in Virginia. Combined with forestry, agriculture represents the largest segment of Virginia's economy, generating more than $70 billion annually and accounting for nearly 415,000 jobs across the Commonwealth. Our nation owes much of its prosperity to its deeply rooted history of agriculture, and we continue to rely heavily on its significant contributions to our economy and our country. Preserving and fostering our great legacy of family farming in Virginia is one of my top priorities. After meeting with farmers from Rocky Mount to Warrenton this past week, it remains clear that the federal government is often out of touch with the needs of our family farmers and agribusinesses.
A prime example of this disconnect is overzealous environmental regulation. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a rule that would unilaterally expand the Clean Water Act's scope to essentially any body of water -" including ditches, culverts, and farmland ponds. This unilateral decision by EPA bureaucrats has significantly increased both uncertainty and costs on our family farmers while ignoring the fact that Congress is the only institution with the authority to change the law. Our nation's farmers, and all those involved in agriculture, invest significantly in clean water to ensure the sustainability of the environment, as it is essential to their livelihood. This week, the House is scheduled to consider the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, which would force EPA and the Corps to withdraw this harmful rule and to develop a new proposed rule.
Many farmers, including the Bennett family in Campbell County, expressed concern over how devastating the estate tax can be to family farmers who want to have their children and grandchildren continue their life's work. Last month, the House voted to repeal the death tax - a significant step toward implementing a simpler, fairer tax code and ensuring that our small businesses can continue to create the jobs Virginia's Fifth District needs, and it is my hope that the Senate takes up this vote soon.
I also heard time and again this week how the President's healthcare law is continuing to impose high healthcare costs on small agribusinesses, preventing them from expanding as much as they could be. These businesses are unable to hire more employees because they are forced to pay outrageous premiums. I have supported, and will continue to support, a full repeal of the President's job-killing healthcare law, efforts to reduce its harmful effects on the American people, and policies that actually reduce the cost of health care.
I cannot help make the government more responsive to the needs of agriculture without hearing from our local growers and producers, so I greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet with so many hardworking Fifth District Virginians this past week. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to put forth policies that support our robust agriculture industry.
If you need any additional information or if we may be of assistance to you, please visit my website at hurt.house.gov or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.