- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

March 16

News and Sentinel, Parkersburg, W.Va., on food in the state:

According to federal statistics, West Virginia produces less than 10 percent of the food its residents consume - and more than half of what is produced here comes from the poultry industry.

“We simply don’t grow it here,” said West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick.

In fact, we grow so little here that the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls some of the more isolated, rural regions of the state “food deserts.” When Catholic Charities of West Virginia called for volunteers to help serve these food deserts, it chose to focus on a six-county area east of Wood County. The aim of that program is to provide healthy food and other services to the rural poor.

There was a time in this state when the rural poor were the very folks with the freshest, healthiest produce out of their own gardens. A couple of weekends hunting might have provided meat for the rest of the season. On a larger scale, the 800,000 sheep that used to graze in West Virginia have dwindled to fewer than 30,000. Beef cattle at one time numbered 700,000. Now there are about half as many.

Helmick said last week his department is dealing with companies who might want to bring processing facilities and feed lots to West Virginia. He also said initiatives are being put in place to help farmers grow and process their food in-state.

His explanation, however, that “If we can do it, it will work,” begs for more detailed discussion.

Vague plans and possibilities are not enough, if West Virginia is to see the “$6 billion worth of opportunity” Helmick says exists. Neither is tackling with charity the cultural shift toward dependence and entitlement that has turned our rural counties into food deserts.

One specific mentioned by Helmick was the idea of using land cleared by mountaintop removal mining to plant crops such as potatoes. That might be a good start, though it would be helpful to hear which companies are on board for such a venture.

Phrases such as “work is being done,” ”we can,” ”we want,” and “we need to,” combined with words like “potential” are lovely sentiments. If Helmick is serious about addressing the problems that have kept West Virginia from realizing that potential, his actions had better speak louder than his words.




March 13

The Register-Herald, Bleckley, W.Va., on getting real:

As if trying to find $120 million - the new projected shortfall - to fund the state’s 2014-2015 budget weren’t a hard enough task, it now seems that some lawmakers are making it more difficult.

Sen. Roman Prezioso, the Marion County Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, says election year politics are intensifying the struggle.

All 100 seats in the House of Delegates and 17 of the 24 state Senate seats are up for election.

That makes budget negotiations more difficult, Prezioso said, and some crucial budget legislation didn’t make it through both chambers before the final gavels fell Saturday night at the end of the regular session.

“Politics plays a major part in all this,” he said. “People want to get elected; people want to do things to help constituents.”

This, then, is where we say lawmakers need to stop the self-servance, suck it up and do what is best for West Virginia and its citizens.

We understand that no one wants their project to lose funding. But revenue isn’t endless and sometimes you just have to face facts.

What do you do in your home when you have a budget shortfall? Most would have a serious discussion with family members and rearrange budget items to help close the gap.

And that is what are legislators are being paid to do.

The people who voted you into your office deserve your best efforts. Bickering, shouting and belligerence must be put aside, as well as party affiliations.

Problems never get solved if no one is willing to negotiate calmly and to compromise.

To those lawmakers who are standing for re-election: if you are well and truly doing what is right for West Virginia and West Virginians, you need not worry about being returned to Charleston.

You weren’t put there to enjoy a two-month vacation every winter. You were put there by people who trusted that you could - and would - watch their backs. That you would make sure that programs that help your constituents the most get their just due.

We concede there have been distractions aplenty this session. The attention diverted - deservedly so - to the Elk River chemical spill may have impaired the focus of lawmakers about why else they came to Charleston.

But, sirs and madams, it is now time to get serious, lay politics aside and ensure West Virginia remains the wonderful place we’ve always known it to be.




March 18

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on the skies belong to the people, not government:

In Japan, the Yamaha Motor Co. uses drones to spray crops. The 140-pound unmanned flying machines are cheaper than a plane and can go so low that they can apply fertilizers and pesticides more efficiently.

Yamaha has used drones to crop dust for 20 years.

Try that in the United States and the Federal Aviation Administration will shut you down. FAA officials have determined that the government - not the people - owns the skies. The FAA has arbitrarily banned the use of drones for any commercial use.

It’s the you’ll-poke-your-eye-out approach to governance. The idea that one needs the permission of the government to put anything in the air is loony, and yet that is exactly how this agency is acting.

For example, the Washington Nationals used a drone to take publicity shots of its players from angles a human could not get to.

“No, we didn’t get it cleared, but we don’t get our pop flies cleared either and those go higher than this thing did,” a team official told The Associated Press.

From now on, pop flies will need to be cleared because the FAA shut down the drone flights the next day. This is an outrageous overreach.

Yes, there should be a few rules on how the drones fly. People should be careful not to use them near airports and other sensitive areas.

But companies should be able to exploit drones just as they use automobiles and telephones. In fact, wouldn’t it be safer for all parties if a drone delivered a pizza rather than a teen-aged driver on a cold snowy night?

The federal government’s approach to civilian drone flights is akin to “we don’t understand and we’re scared, so you cannot do it.”

Thank goodness the FAA was not around when Wilbur and Orville Wright launched the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight at Kill Devils Hill near Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903.

America was built on the freedom to take risks and make money. The nation led the world. Now the United States may fall behind in part because of the overreach of a government that thinks it owns the country.

This is regulatory overreach that smacks of full-time bureaucrats looking for things to regulate for no good reason.





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