Agriculture Kent Leonhardt is asking the West Virginia Legislature to pass a
bill to rename and expand the West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s (WVDA)
Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Program. House Bill 4693 would rename the
program to the “Veterans and Heroes to Agriculture Program,” as well as
authorize the scope of the program to include first responders. Sponsors
include Delegates Jeff Pack, Brande Steele, Roy Cooper, Tony Paynter and
Majority Leader Amy Summers.
“To enhance services
to additional groups, we needed to alter the scope and name of the program as
laid out in code,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt. “The new
name honors the program’s original intention and takes it a step further to represent
where we believe the program is heading. Veterans and first responders both
fall under the category of “heroes” in our book,” said Commissioner of
Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.
Founded in 2014, the
Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture program’s mission is to recruit, retrain
and mentor men and women who are currently or have served in the United States
military. As tasked under West Virginia state code §19-1-12, the WVDA runs the
official Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Program with the aim to integrate
veterans into the field of agriculture and support those currently working in
Until 2018, the
program received no legislative appropriated monies and accomplished its duties
through dedicated volunteers and donations. After successful advocating by
Commissioner Leonhardt, the West Virginia Legislature secured the first state
appropriation for the program in the FY19 budget. The Hershel “Woody” Williams
VA Medical Center, in partnership with the WVDA and Marshall University, was
also awarded an additional $400,000 of federal dollars in 2019.
“We believe many of
the trainings and concepts we have learned through the VA Farms project and
other partnerships can easily transition to other groups. Many organizations
are already using agriculture as an opportunity to help other populations heal.
Changing the program’s mission just makes sense,” Leonhardt said.
House Bill 4693 can be
For questions or information about the program,
contact Dane Gaiser at email@example.com or 304-558-2210
Crescent Gallagher, Communications Director firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-558-3708 or 304-380-3922