(a) Legislative findings. --
West Virginians have a longstanding tradition of service in the armed forces of the United States. Many veterans suffer from physical and emotional afflictions and are often unable to find gainful employment upon returning from combat. Exploring opportunities to engage West Virginia's veterans in agriculture is beneficial to the health and welfare of veterans, as well as to the future of West Virginia's agricultural economy.
(b) Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Program. --
The Department of Agriculture shall develop a Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Program to integrate veterans into the field of agriculture, and support veterans currently working in agriculture. These programs may include, but are not limited to, using post-mine land for agricultural development, promoting high tunnel crops and production, expanding the apiary industry, developing cottage industries, exploring niche crops, raising more livestock, increasing the aquaculture industry and helping veterans promote their agricultural products through farmers markets and cooperatives. The department, Department of Veterans' Assistance and the state's Adjutant General shall work together to recruit and train eligible veterans, and develop and support the program.
(c) Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Fund. -- There is hereby created in the State Treasury a special revenue account, designated the Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Fund. The fund shall consist of income from leasing the department's property for the program, surplus funds which may be transferred from the fund created by section six-a, article twelve-a of this chapter, gifts, grants and donations, and legislative appropriations which may be made to support the program. Expenditures from the fund shall be used exclusively, in accordance with appropriations by the Legislature, to pay costs, fees and expenses necessary to administer the Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Program: Provided, That for fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, expenditures are authorized from collections rather than pursuant to an appropriation by the Legislature.
(d) Notwithstanding any provision in this code to the contrary, should the Department of Agriculture deem it necessary to provide land for activities within this program, it is exempt from the purchasing requirements as they relate to the competitive leasing of state property.
(e) The commissioner may propose emergency or legislative rules for approval in accordance with the provisions of article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code to effectuate the provisions of this section.