PARKERSBURG - The Wood County Farm Bureau strives to be an advocate for farmers, agriculture and those living in the rural parts of the state.
The West Virginia Farm Bureau was formed in 1919 with the Wood County Farm Bureau formed in 1928. The state bureau currently has around 20,000, including Wood County's 1,142 members.
''We are interested in the safety and health of farmers and rural people,'' said Dave Lawson, president of the Wood County Farm Bureau. ''We are interested in conservation of land. We hear people talk that we aren't. I believe farmers do take care of their land because that is where they get their living from.
Wood County Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee members prepare baskets and fruit trays for Farm Bureau members who are shut in.
''We support the ability of farmers to be able to make a living, support their families and be able to pass their land to their heirs without excessive taxes.''
Lawson has a farm in Washington Bottom where he grows hay. Other farmers around the area raise corn, soybeans and other crops while a number of farmers raise livestock.
A group of around seven Wood County Farm Bureau members recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., on a number of topics important to them, such as excessive EPA rulings for farmers.
''They have said we were putting polution in rivers and streams,'' Lawson said. ''That is a misconception.
''I think farmers do everything they can to make the environment better.''
They talked to McKinley about the death tax, captial gains tax, farming with disabilities, excessive EPA rulings.
Some families have been farming a piece of land for three to four generations and the land and their equipment are worth quite a bit, but they don't have the money available to sustain it if they need to pass it to their heirs, Lawson said.
''It might mean the next generation can't pay taxes on the place,'' he said.
They also talked about how there isn't much funding for people with disabilities to be able to farm. A Wood County farming family has members with disabilities.
''They are a reall asset to our community, but the equipment is just so expensive,'' Lawson said.
The bureau helps local 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America chapters. They also sponsor a $500 scholarship to help a student continue their education.
The Wood County Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee members prepare baskets and fruit trays for Farm Bureau Members who are shut in and are involved in teaching "Ag in the Classroom" where they bring farming concepts to the students at local schools.
''Women are active leaders in all levels of farm bureau,'' said Janet Wigal, secretary. ''We serve as committee chairpersons, coordinators for various farm bureau programs.''
The Women's Leadership Committee's programs include doing food drives, collecting canned goods for the Ronald McDonald House in Huntington and delivering the many boxes they collect to the House.
The women's group also conducts the Safety Days for third- and fourth-grade students in May, holds poster contests and conducts youth speech contests.
''We also take part in public affairs by writing letters to legislators,'' Wigal said.
During elections, the Wood County Farm Bureau also sponsors meet-the-candidate events for the public.
''The bureau has around equal represenation from Democrats and Republicans with a number of independents,'' Lawson said. ''We invite all of the candidates.
''These events allow people to come out and see the candidates.''
The Wood County Farm Bureau also organizes the annual Safety Days for local school children in May at the Wood County 4-H campgrounds in Mineral Wells.
Students visited stations dealing with electrical safety, food safety, Internet safety, fire safety, farm machinery safety, ATV safety, sun safety and disabilities awareness. At each station, the students were given demonstrations by experts about things they should be mindful of in situations they might face in their lives.
The Wood County Farm Bureau participates with the state bureau to collect pop can tabs for recycling to benefit the three Ronald McDonald Houses near hospitals around the state. The local bureau also collects food and other supplies to benefit the houses.
The local bureau also hosts dinners every fall and spring. They also will co-host a legislative dinner on Jan. 3, 2013 with the Forestry Association and invite all the local legislators and talk to them about what they will be working on in the new legislative session. Lawson said many of the local legislators are open to talk to and really seem to want to serve the area and the people who live here.
Farming remains difficult for many people to be able to do, Lawson said, adding the price of fertilizer is up and diesel fuel is more than $4 a gallon and it takes a lot to run a tractor. Most of the places to sell crops are in Ohio and it costs money to transport many crops.
''The cost of farming is high and WV farms are small compared to some of the surrounding states,'' he said. ''It takes a lot of acres to raise something that will make a return that a farmer can live on as a full-time farmer.
''Most of the farmers around here, have had to work other jobs to support their farms. It is difficult to accumulate any savings to retire on.''
The state's deer population has become a problem for many farmers, having grown to a point they are impacting crops.
''They can do a lot of damage,'' Lawson said. ''You can see corn shucks all over the place.
''We have a couple of years where corn prices are relatively high, $8 a bussel or so, and it has been devasting.''
The state farm bureau will have its state meeting Nov. 9-11 at Flatwoods, W.Va., where they will discuss and formulate policies the organization, as a whole will support. The state bureau will submit the policies to state legislators to see if anything can be done in Charleston.
''Each county has the opportunity to develop policies which will be submitted to a state committee for review,'' he said. ''We represent rural people as much as any organization, whether they are members or not.
''We have a wonderful county here and everyone works hard to make it better.''