HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 139
(By Delegates Williams, Boggs, Pethtel, Perdue, Anderson, Iaquinta, Guthrie, Miller, Walker, Manypenny, White, Ashley, Barill, Caputo, Craig, Eldridge, Evans, A., Ferro, Fleischauer, Hartman, Hunt, Ireland, Lawrence, Lynch, Manchin, Marcum, Miley, Moore, Morgan, Pasdon, Perry, Phillips, R., Pino, Poling, M., Reynolds, Skaff, Smith, P., Staggers and Stowers)
Requesting the Joint Committee on Government and Finance to create a select working group to study the potential for creating new jobs and improving our economy by increasing agribusiness in the state through the development of a sustainable regional-based food system that supports the production, processing, aggregation, distribution and consumption of West Virginia foods.
Whereas, A strong, regionally-based food system can provide a wellspring of economic growth for rural communities and cities. While other areas in the United States have realized some gain from developing agricultural and food-based resources, West Virginia’s potential remains largely underutilized. Total farm sales in the state increased by 19 percent to $591 million from 2002 to 2007, but these amounts pale in comparison to other states and West Virginia ranked 43rd in the nation for total farm product sales in 2007; and
Whereas, Despite West Virginia’s mountainous terrain, many farms and much agricultural land exist in the state. Currently, most farms have cattle or calf inventory, but there is significant room for vegetable and fruit production to expand to fill the local shortage, or the difference between consumption and production; and Whereas, A significant market exists for vegetables and fruits, and in particular, there is a high demand for fresh vegetables. This fact, combined with the trend of low current vegetable production, highlights a market opportunity for increased vegetable production in West Virginia; and
Whereas, Significantly expanding vegetable and fruit production in West Virginia would have an important economic impact on the state. For example,if West Virginia farmers grew enough vegetables and fruits to meet 75 percent of the fresh seasonal produce needs of all West Virginians it would create an estimated 1,330 jobs (519 jobs in farming and 398 jobs in food and beverage retail), and the resulting increase in production would create an estimated $93.9 million in additional sales. If West Virginia farmers grew enough vegetables and fruits to meet 100 percent of the fresh seasonal produce needs of all West Virginians it would create an estimated 1,723 jobs (690 jobs in farming and 510 jobs in food and beverage retail), and the resulting increase in production would create an estimated $120.8 million in additional sales; and
Whereas, There are also opportunities to grow jobs and stimulate the West Virginia economy by increasing the production and processing of livestock and poultry that we consume in this state. According to the U.S. Food Market Estimator developed by Iowa State University, almost 72 million pounds of beef are consumed annually in West Virginia, and much of that is currently imported from outside the state and the country. A recent West Virginia University Extension Service study estimated the potential economic benefit of raising and processing all the beef and pork we consume in this state to be a total of 14,295 additional jobs when factoring the direct, indirect and induced effect of the production; and
Whereas, There are many positive economic impacts of a vibrant local food system, but the primary economic benefits take the form of increased income and employment, which are driven by substitution (buying local food instead of food from far away) and localization (bringing processing activities into the region instead of processing food far away). This results in more jobs and more recirculated dollars, as an enhanced local food system can even stimulate neighboring businesses and increase the sharing of local skill sets; and
Whereas, In addition to the foregoing direct economic benefits, local food systems also have secondary socioeconomic benefits such as improving the health of residents. Local food is usually fresher and less processed, and the availability of readily accessible local food may lead to healthier diet choices, like eating more vegetables, fruits and leaner meats. Additionally, local food may also improve school children’s diets, and school-based healthy food programming can help increase fruit, vegetable and leaner meat intake; and
Whereas, A coordinated, strategic and collaborative effort is needed to successfully implement policy changes that will help establish a sustainable regional-based food system in West Virginia to grow our economy; therefore, be it
Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Joint Committee on Government and Finance is hereby requested to create a select working group to study the potential for creating new jobs and improving our economy by increasing agribusiness in the state through the development of a sustainable regional-based food system that supports the production, processing, aggregation, distribution and consumption of West Virginia foods; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the Joint Committee on Government and Finance report to the regular session of the Legislature, 2014, on its findings, conclusions and recommendations, together with drafts of any legislation necessary to effectuate its recommendations; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the expenses necessary to conduct this study, to prepare a report and to draft necessary legislation be paid from legislative appropriations to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance.