Guest column/Local agriculture vital to West Virginia’s economic future



As a Outcome of the nationwide meals system acquired here to a screeching halt Inside the early days of the pandemic, the demand for meals elevated, offering A singular alternative for native agriculture. This alternative was solely potential As a Outcome of of hoarding of provides, the closure of eating places and outbreaks in huge scale processing inflicting an incapability to garner regular items from huge chain grocers. To Search out The required vitamin, consumers have been pressured To level out in the direction of native producers or processors to fill gaps. Fortunately, our native farmers took this problem head on forging A greater relationship with consumers and displaying the significance of house-developn agriculture to our properlybeing. With the pandemic in our rear-view mirror, this subsequent rising season will decide if we found our classes of the previous or will consumers revert to huge scale agriculture.

There are A lot of indicators that native agriculture Is flourishing Inside the Mountain State. As a Outcome of the West Virginia Division of Agriculture took over the regulation of farmers markets, We now have seen these markets double in quantity. This has been accomplished by reducing burdensome legal guidelines to open new avenues for producers to promote their merchandise. The completely different half of the equation is More and more extra consumers Want to know their farmer. These clients worth understanding how somebody raises or develops their product and the place precisely it comes from. It’s this dedication Which will actually assist our communities expertise financial progress, As properly as to create resiliency in case of future pandemics.

Ancompletely different indicator of progress is the progress within native meat manufacturing. Over the previous yr, meat processing is up 200% and livestock slaughter up 41%. Most processors are telling their clients They’re booked strong for The subsequent yr. This elevated demand is a direct Outcomes of The scarcity of product we noticed within our chain grocery shops. For this enchancment to proceed, habits should change, however we additionally should scale up manufacturing by both developing current amenities or permitting new amenities to enter market gaps. What It is going to take is lifting some federal legal guidelines, As properly as to native investments. The mannequin new Buzz Meals facility, located in Kanawha County, Is An best event of An alternative to develop our livestock enterprise and create greater entry to native meats. We have To duplicate their mannequin all by way of the state.

Sadly, not all agriculture industries noticed a bump Through the pandemic, and with June being National Dairy Month, it’s A great time To spotlight and assist West Virginia’s operations. A scarcity of elevated demand is nothing new to U.S dairy, as consumption has plateaued in current many yrs. On The identical time, know-how has launched efficiencies to the enterprise requiring much less cows To take care of manufacturing ranges.

The reply is innovation by both creating micro-distilleries or including worth to the fluid milk with merchandise Similar to cheese. Either avenue takes a dedication from us, the consumers, to assist these improvements, As properly as to state’s lifting legal guidelines to foster innovation. By permitting these companies to adapt, They will transfer into new demand gaps permitting these house-developn companies To survive.

Do you have to haven’t caught on to the message I am making an try to get throughout, it’s merely that native agricultural methods Aren’t solely very important to our financial system however to the well being of our residents and the state’s capability to navigate a pandemic. How we assist these farmers is by reducing legal guidelines, opening new market alternatives, serving to them embrace innovation and, Most significantly, assisting them with shopper demand. Subsequently, this summer time I am calling on all West Virginians to current gratitude to People who stored us fed when nationwide meals methods crumbled final yr. Throughout Dairy Month, get to know your native dairy farmer and go to your communities’ farmers market. Understand why these exhausting-working people chosen this profession path, how they make their product and why it issues to our communities. Get out and assist An space producer because house-developn agriculture Is essential to West Virginia’s future.

(The West Virginia Division of Agriculture protects plant, animal and human well being by way of Pretty a Little bit of scientific, regulatory and shopper safety packages. The Commissioner of Agriculture is Definitely one of six statewide elected officers who sits on the Board of Public Works.)

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