By Mannix Porterfield
Farm business that surfaces in the Legislature needs to be in the hands of someone familiar with the industry, and for that reason, Sen. Ron Miller says he gladly agreed to take the reins as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, initially was offered the post but turned it down in deference to other commitments.
To accept the post, Miller, D-Greenbrier, had to step aside as chairman of Enrolled Bills, although he will continue serving as vice chairman of Government Organization.
“Sen. Miller’s knowledge of agriculture and its importance to the state makes him an excellent choice to lead this committee,” Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said Thursday. “I look forward to working closely with him during the upcoming legislative session.”
Miller said he agreed to accept the assignment because he felt it was important for the agriculture committee head to be someone with roots in the farming community.
“I am sure that there are better choices out there, but I am honored at this point to serve where I am asked to serve,” he said.
Miller owns a 135-acre spread in Greenbrier, where he raises sheep and grows hay, and also leases several hundred acres of land for hay production.
In years past, he and his wife had produced a corn maze as part of an agri-tourism business.
“We continue to be involved in our business of concessions at fairs and festivals, where we depend on some of our own farm produce and that of other local farms for our sandwiches and such,” he said.
For a number of years, his family operated the John Deere dealership before selling off that business.
Miller wasted no time getting started, saying he is reaching out to folks in the farm belt to see what issues are of interest to them.
Looking ahead to the upcoming session, Miller said he hopes his committee has the opportunity to examine liability issues regarding hunting on private farm land.
“Judiciary usually gets this, but it is a strong farm issue,” the senator said.
And he expects to see a return to the matter of captive cervids, or so-called deer farms. In the last session, a bill was approved by the Senate but it died in the House of Delegates.
“We need to work with all groups to make sure that we can see how this helps the local farmer and all of the rest of the concerns around this issue,” Miller said.
“I would hope that we could look at the promotion of local foods for local markets and see if there is not something more that we can do to push forward on this issue.”
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