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Feb 8, 2022
Proposed legislation would create Office of Agritourism at USDA

House of Representatives Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, and Jennifer Wexton, D-Virginia, recently introduced the “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.

“From our world-class wineries and breweries to local orchards, dairies, and farmers markets, agritourism is a vital part of Central Washington’s economy,” Newhouse said in a news release. “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.”

“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,” Wexton said. “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.”

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 Central Washington, agritourism has enabled small farmers to expand their businesses and increase access to high quality local food sources, which has boosted local economies while maintaining the rural character of the region.

“Agritourism is essential to the survival of the wine industry and Congressman Newhouse knows this better than anyone,” said Josh McDonald, Executive Director of the Washington Wine Institute, an industry trade group representing Washington wineries. “This bill will help Washington wineries in his district and across the state immensely by promoting agritourism in ways that have not been done in the past.”

“Wineries need visitors to survive, particularly in places as remote as the Columbia Valley,” said Marty Clubb, owner and managing winemaker of L’Ecole No. 41 Winery and Washington Wine Institute and WineAmerica board member, “We are thrilled that Congressman Newhouse is co-sponsoring this bill. He understands what our industry needs and continues to be a steadfast supporter.”

“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.

Click here to read the full text of the AGRITOURISM Act.

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