WV Farm Bureau blames state Dept. of Agriculture for hurting farmers

A local cattle farmer discusses why he believes the state Department of Agriculture's cattle initiative is a step in the wrong direction.
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UPSHUR COUNTY, W.Va. (WDTV)- Conflict has led the Farm Bureau to call for an investigation into the state Department of Agriculture. Bureau officials say two of the department's programs spend your tax dollars to compete against local farmers.

One of these department programs the bureau blames is to improve genetics for cattle farmers and the other is to expand commercial potato growth. The department bought several cows from outside the state and has been producing potatoes. They want to grow the industries this way, but local farmers say they're taking the hit.

"It's in direct competition here," said potato farmer Bill Grose. "You can't have state-produced things out here competing against private enterprise. Because we all pay taxes."

Grose was shocked when he saw state-produced potatoes on the shelves for cheaper than his. It's the same feeling Jamie Kinsey got when he found out his family's cattle farm, which has been around since the Civil War, was pushed to the side in favor of out-of-state cattle.

"They already raise cattle, but to get into a specific business that several of us are already doing in this state that are providing and supplying good beef genetics is kind of a waste," Kinsey said.

A waste of taxpayer money, he says, where we should be "pinching pennies." Farm Bureau officials agree and say production shouldn't be the Department's of Agriculture's big concern.

"We believe there are many opportunities that the department could be pursuing that are not production agriculture, but actually are marketing opportunities that our producers could be utilizing," said Dwayne O'Dell, Director of Government Affairs for the WVFB.

But the director of communications with the state department says the belief that they're trying to compete is "absolutely false." He says it's private farmers who are growing the potatoes under the initiative and who benefit from the sales.

"I think there's a misconception that's being put out there by the Farm Bureau that this is in competition with other West Virginia farmers and it is the exact opposite," said Butch Antolini. "It is to promote growth of the program, not competition."

Antolini believes the Farm Bureau is using this as a political move during the election year.

A committee to review these projects will meet Monday. Antolini says department officials will be there to answer questions.

Hear more from the farmers themselves in the interview above.