A turn of the
calendar calls for revision of individual ideals and new goals to avoid any
complacency we may have fallen into over the holidays. Business
organizations typically use end of the year to honestly reflect on the
previous 12 months. For state agencies, we must continue to find ways to
better serve the people of our great state, as well as, implement new
policies which save taxpayers’ dollars. My staff and I typically come into
the new year with many goals but reviewing all of those would require a
multi-page document. Instead, lets touch on a few priorities for the WVDA
Our Veterans and
Warriors to Agriculture Program saw a lot of success this past year, most
notably through the agro-therapy project with the Woody Williams VA Medical
Center. To expand on these types of training opportunities, the WVDA is
working with higher education partners to develop what will be known as the
Veterans Education and Training Series (V.E.T.S.). Beginning in the Spring
of 2020, the training series will be offered in abbreviated sessions
throughout the state. They will cover various topic areas eventually
leading to certification upon completion. The goal is to deliver a
successful veteran training series that continues to benefit our service
men and women.
The Department is
working with our livestock producers to modernize our state’s industry.
This includes providing animal identification readers to each livestock
market in West Virginia, which is part of a federal mandate to enhance
disease traceability by 2023. The good news is West Virginia is further
along than many states ensuring the quality of the beef coming from our
cattle farmers will remain high.
We are also
working on bringing changes to the graders program which includes training
more field staff and extending their responsibilities at no additional cost
to the taxpayers. To protect an industry that brings in hundreds of
millions of dollars each year to our state, we must work on enhancing the
resiliency of our herds. Tapping into new international markets, as well as
expand local opportunities, requires protecting the reputation our cattle
farmers have worked so hard to establish.
Supporting the FFA
community in West Virginia is crucial to our State’s future. With record
numbers of memberships over the last two years, we must ensure the
resources are available for these future leaders. This includes bringing
Cedar Lakes, the home of WV FFA, into the twenty-first century. The
Department has worked tirelessly with the Ripley community to preserve this
facility, but much more must be done. We also must work on getting
vocational agriculture teachers in every school that has student interest.
FFA is no longer training future farmers but the next leaders of our
country. It is time we do everything possible to support these vital
Over the past
three years, I am extremely proud of everything my staff has accomplished.
My administration came in with a positive attitude that was not going to
accept complacent tendencies of the past. We listened to our staff, filled
much needed positions, promoted or recruited the right people into
leadership roles and have worked with the Legislature to correct erroneous
regulations. Despite all that has been accomplished, we know the work isn’t
done. In 2020, we promise you we are are working towards a better
Agricultural Future. We hope you all will join us on this journey.
Kent A. Leonhardt
Commissioner of Agriculture