David Walker (D-Clay)
House of Delegates
WV Legislature-District 33

As you may remember, as chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, I was proud to help get passed several bills but one in particular I want to address and follow up on. Last session we passed a bill, House Bill 4439, which authorized the Department of Agriculture to develop a Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Program which included proposing emergency or legislative rules, to integrate veterans into the field of agriculture and support veterans currently working in the field.

The bill granted the Department of Agriculture the authority to create and maintain programs to encourage, support and develop agricultural opportunities for West Virginia veterans. The bill also exempted the Department of Agriculture from certain competitive bidding requirements for leasing land for the programs, require the Department of Agriculture and Veteran's Administration to work together and create a fund for the programs and states how the fund income shall be used. The Fund would only to be used for purposes of the Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Program and funds shall not revert to the General Revenue Fund.

This past month we heard an update on how the program is being established during interim meetings held in Bridgeport, WV. The program stemmed from an idea Mr. James McCormick had in 2009. He'd returned from war with multiple gunshots wounds, suffering from PTSD, and found solace in working with the dirt. He started his own farm, supplying sorghum to a local festival, and began connecting with other veterans who were interested in starting farms of their own.

The Warriors and Veterans to Agriculture program is averaging about seven to 10 applicants a week and has trained veterans in planting and maintain row crops, bees hives and livestock among other skills.

The program has a successful beekeeping program in three locations around West Virginia, and an educational farm in Lakin, WV (Mason County). Through generous funding and grants the program has been able to help offset the costs of equipment and supplies for 48 veterans and their families.

Next year these veterans will serve as mentors to the next class of veterans, and the cycle will continue.

One of the newer projects (funded by Grow Appalachia) is "Backyard Victory Gardens", which started on June 1st, 2014, and will work with 10 veteran families in the counties of Cabell, Mason, and Wayne.

Establishing a "Victory Garden", just like during World War II, creates a secure source of fresh food which is affordable, while perhaps creating some extra income by selling the surplus produce. I will continue to support this program and find ways the Legislature can help these returning warriors and help make a difference in their lives as they have for us.

If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues or bills before the legislature please feel free to contact me. To write me, my address is Delegate David Walker, State Capitol, Building 1, Room 203-E, Charleston, WV 25305. Or you may call me at (304) 340-3135. I encourage all my constituents to remain active and become part of the legislative process.

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