The Times West Virginian


February 9, 2014

State must not pass up lucrative chance with development of needed food products

It’s obviously important for West Virginia to take full advantage of its resources.

Coal, natural gas and timber are some that quickly come to mind.

What about food?

Commissioner of Agri­culture Walt Helmick recently noted that the West Virginia Depart­ment of Education purchases almost all of the food for schools out of state.

He thinks that can be changed.

Helmick, The Associated Press reported, told the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development that West Virginia grows $663 million in farm products but consumes upwards of $7 billion. The big­gest customer is the school sys­tem at $100 million, he added.

That’s a number that can and should grow significantly.

“We want West Virginians spending their tax money on West Virginia products,” Hel­mick said.

What’s required is a change in attitude.

Helmick said one potato distributor in West Virginia currently has three railroad boxcars of potatoes shipped here each week from Idaho.

“Everybody knows the Idaho brand because they've branded it and they’ve done well with it throughout the years,” he said. “We don't have to look outside West Virginia because we have a $6 billion opportunity.”

The Department of Educa­tion has only two requirements for the switch to state products, Helmick said: comparable in price and comparable in quality.

The commissioner said some state farmers are making a profit on what they grow, but without access to the school system, they don’t have much incentive to increase.

A Preston County farmer, Helmick noted, grew 18 acres of potatoes and sold them at considerable profit. When Helmick asked him why he didn’t grow 36 acres of pota­toes, the farmer replied that he could sell only 18.

“We have to provide incen­tive,” Helmick said.

Helmick said the new Agri­culture School at West Virginia University will help the devel­opment of state food products, perhaps changing atti­tudes about farming.

Helmick has told legislators he wants to double production of food in West Virginia to more than $1 billion in a few years. He said it would not only "increase employment, but also the tax base in our state."

There are programs underway to encourage more farm production in West Virginia.

The Department of Agriculture, for instance, is planning a pilot project on 2,000 acres of farmland in Randolph County in a team effort with a horticulturist from West Virginia University.

The department is also making 40 acres of Mason County farmland available for lease to organizations and individuals for commercial vegetable and small fruit production.

Helmick suggests developing “non-traditional farming methods,” especially on some 150,000 acres of flat land throughout central and southern West Virginia.

He’s also calling on West Virginia to look at the pork industry to supplement successful poultry and beef operations.

Helmick noted that North Carolina now produces $2.5 billion annually in its pork industry and employs thousands of people, but pork farm operations can no longer obtain permits there.

He encouraged those farmers to "come to West Virginia, look at developing in southern West Virginia and see if we can't grow that industry here.”

We appreciate Helmick’s aggressive moves on a number of fronts to quickly boost food production in West Virginia. The potential for a handsome payback can’t be ignored.

Text Only
  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?

    Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
    I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.

    July 20, 2014

  • Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions

    This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
    The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    July 18, 2014

  • Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year

    It’s happening again.
    It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
    But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.

    July 17, 2014

  • County honors men who gave all in helping their community

    The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
    Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
    The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.

    July 16, 2014

  • State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less

    The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
    Let’s not do that again.

    July 15, 2014

  • Long-range vision with transportation has been made to be thing of proud past

    Last week’s closure of Fairmont’s Fourth Street Bridge is a symbol of a problem that must be fixed.
    The United States should be proud of the vision its leaders once displayed to address the country’s transportation needs.
    Back in 1954, for example, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced his goal of an interstate highway system — something that transformed the country.

    July 13, 2014

  • COLUMN: Who would leave animal in sweltering car?

    I was standing and debating between two brands of a product in a big box store when I heard a call over the intercom:
    “Will the owner of a green Cavalier with a dog inside please report to the lawn and garden center.”
    I shook my head. I hate seeing dogs in cars waiting while their owners shop. About five minutes later, there was another announcement over the intercom.

    July 13, 2014

  • We must take all weather emergency alerts seriously

    In a weather emergency, every second counts.
    Think back to the derecho that devastated the state just two years ago. The powerful wind storm caused nearly 700,000 people in West Virginia to lose electricity, some who didn’t have power restored for weeks. A state of emergency was declared, and all but two of the state’s 55 counties sustained some damage or loss of power.

    July 10, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads