Farming Research Center Closure Seems Near Certain
September 20, 2011
BECKLEY — A battle at the federal level for the Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center in Beaver appears to be going the way of closure for the facility, which provides jobs for about 55 West Virginians.
Many of the jobs are high-value jobs that provide opportunities for careers in the sciences not widely available in the Mountain State. Although several U.S. senators wrote asking for support of the facilities from the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, the committee opted to leave funding for the Agricultural Research Service facilities struck from a coming appropriations bill.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., led the charge against closure of the facility in the Senate, and said he was disappointed to see the Senate Appropriations Committee ignore the request to sustain the facility.
“I’ve repeatedly argued on behalf of the ARS plant to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, the Office of Management and Budget and, most recently, the Appropriations Committee,” Rockefeller said. “I believe the USDA is making the wrong choice in closing it and will continue to push for a reversal. Given the climate in Washington, it’s challenging to balance our desire to cut spending with the value of targeted investment in communities. I intend to keep working to find solutions for the affected employees and their families.”
In a previous release prior to the Senate Appropriations Committee decision, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the facility is one of many necessary to keep America competitive in the field of science and research. He said he would do all he could to shield the jobs in Beaver.
Rep. Nick Rahall fought for the facility in the U.S. House, but his efforts were also dismissed by the time the final bill passed that chamber.
“After the president’s budget proposed axing the ARS Center in Beaver, I specifically went to bat for the facility, asking the House Appropriations Committee to support its continued operations with funding,” Rahall said. “The congressionally imposed ban on earmarks blocked that avenue. Since the Senate bill does not have funding either, the center is now on the path to closure.”
Rahall said the closure of the facility is an example of the need for earmarks, which allow Congress members to designate money for projects at home.
“This is a prime example of why I have so strongly opposed the Congress’ giving away its earmark authority,” Rahall said. “When the people’s representatives give up our ability to earmark, we hand over the power to make decisions that affect our local communities, giving it to bureaucrats and bean counters who know nothing about the people we represent or what they want and need.”
The Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center in Beaver serves small-acreage landowners, sheep and goat producers and loosely organized or independent family farm operators.
The facility injects about $3.2 million in salaries into the regional economy and about $500,000 in operations and utilities cost.
Calls placed to the Beaver ARS facility were not returned last week or by Monday evening.