The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

February 3, 2014

Helmick wants schools to purchase more homegrown food

CHARLESTON — Food costs have been eating the Deptartment of Education's lunch for years because almost all of the food purchased for schools comes from out of state.

The Commissioner of Agriculture wants to change that, and he thinks he can.

Walt Helmick 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.

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

The Deptartment of Education has only two requirements for the switch to state products, he 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 their yields.

He pointed out a Preston County farmer who 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's presentation was light on economic detail, but he did say that 5 to10 acres would be set aside at Lakin Correctional Center for Women in Mason County for a farming operation.

Helmick said the inmates who participate would be given up-to-date tools to farm the plot. “We're talking about modern agriculture equipment,” he said.

The commissioner said that he proposes to set aside more acreage in the western part of the state and in Randolph County for a farming operation for veterans.

Helmick said West Virginia is “not an entreprenurial state. We always have to work for somebody else,” he said.

That can change, he said, with agriculture, which he noted not many state residents take seriously as an industry.

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

The commissioner also wants to change attitudes about land that has been strip-mined and reclaim it for hog farms. The state has 105 accessible acres of reclaimed mines that have both water and rail access, he said.

His other pet project is deer farming, which he says can be a money-maker. Instead of having oversight by the Deptartment of Natural Resources, Helmick said deer farms should be managed by the Deptartment of Agriculture.

“We can move this industry forward and it should be with agriculture,” he said.

Helmick said the biggest deer farm is in Monroe County and that some deer farms allow hunts, while others are just meat-processing facilities.

West Virginia venison cannot be sold in the state, which Helmick thinks should change. He noted that he can buy venison at restaurants like the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown.

“It comes out of Texas,” he said. “And I lose my appetite when I see where it comes from.”

— E-mail: ppritt@register-herald.com

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • legion VIDEO: American Legion posts plan to merge

    To help deal with its decreasing membership numbers, Beckley American Legion Post 70 is planning a merger with Post 32.

    “We see the benefit for both of us and for Raleigh County,” Post 32 Adjutant Frank Cook said. “Right now Post 70 is having membership problems and with membership problems comes financial problems.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tri-state coal interests rally before hearings

     More than 2,000 union workers and others organized by the coal industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia joined top state elected officials Wednesday to rally against proposed stricter federal pollution regulations for coal-burning power plants.

    July 31, 2014

  • legal Tort reform group brings message to Beckley

    How can West Virginia create more jobs and have a better business climate, at no cost to taxpayers?

    Greg Thomas, executive director of the West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA), says legal reform is one of the answers to that question.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • ‘Biscuit guy’ makes his mark with anthem at TWV

    The old saying “being at the right place at the right time” couldn’t be more true for Calvin Alexander.

    Thanks to a salad dressing bottle (and some impressive vocal skills), Alexander was invited to sing the national anthem not once, but twice, at Theatre West Virginia before the opening of “Hatfields and McCoy

    July 31, 2014

  • Judge in W.Va. asked to delay gay marriage ruling

    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has asked a judge to postpone ruling on a federal lawsuit challenging West Virginia's same-sex marriage ban until the U.S. Supreme Court reviews a ruling in a similar case in Virginia.

    July 30, 2014

  • Tri-state coal interests rally before EPA hearings

    More than 2,000 union workers and others organized by the coal industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia joined top state elected officials Wednesday to rally against proposed stricter federal pollution regulations for coal-burning power plants.

    July 30, 2014

  • Work continues on stand-alone Warrior Trail

    The executive director of the Hatfield and McCoy Trail Authority said Tuesday that officials are still working toward the creation of the stand-alone Warrior Trail in McDowell County.

    July 30, 2014

  • East River Mountain Tunnel repairs will continue for several weeks

    Motorists traveling Interstate 77 could see slight delays again tonight as repair work continues inside of the fire-damaged East River Mountain Tunnel.

    July 30, 2014

  • State leaders to attend coal rally in Pittsburgh

    West Virginia officials are set to join hundreds of coal miners and coal supporters at an electricity and energy jobs rally.

    July 30, 2014

  • Americans continue to be plagued by debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills. 

    July 30, 2014