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Contact: Buddy Davidson, Communications Officer, 304-558-3708; 304-541-5932 (cell)

News Release



Gus R. Douglass retirement press conference Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Today I am announcing that I will not seek another term as West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture. I will retire from public service when my term ends in January 2013.

I’d like to thank the voters of West Virginia for the tremendous support they have shown me throughout my decades as Commissioner. It is truly humbling that they had enough confidence to elect me 11 times.

To be able to serve the citizens of West Virginia as their Commissioner of Agriculture is an honor that I did not foresee as a young man growing up on our family farm in Mason County. Now I’m an older man – living on the same farm – and I cannot believe how quickly the years have flown by.

I am thankful to my wife and family for the sacrifices they made during my years in office. I thank my staff, past and present, for their hard work and dedication – along with the cooperation of numerous partners at both the state and national level.

As I prepare to leave this position, I do so with knowledge that the WVDA is ready to meet the challenges it will inevitably face. We are recognized as one of the leading states in terms of food safety, emergency response and environmental protection.

However, there are a few more things I would like to see accomplished before I step down. Foremost is a permanent facility for the food safety laboratories currently housed at Guthrie. At present, we are in a holding pattern on moving those labs to the former Dow facility in South Charleston. We need facilities that match the professionalism of the employees and the high-tech equipment at work in those labs.

I also want to build up the cases of food at our recently purchased warehouse in Ripley in case of a catastrophic emergency. Our food supply is fragile and we need to be better prepared to feed people in the event of a major emergency, as we’ve witnessed around the globe in recent months.

Finally, it is imperative that we make it the policy of this state to protect the productive capacity of our agricultural land and our farm communities. West Virginia has the highest percentage of family-owned farms in the country. That’s over 23,000 farms producing food for West Virginia consumers. That’s 23,000 families that are in touch with the land. That’s 23,000 homes that are preserving West Virginia’s heritage of independence and rural living.

My legacy – if I may claim them – are those West Virginia family farms that dot our hillsides and sprawl in our valleys. Nothing would please me more than for West Virginia to maintain that nation-leading percentage for another 50 years.

Thank you.

West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass will not seek re-election in 2012. Commissioner Douglass made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday. The announcement was made to employees Monday during a special staff meeting.

“As a farm boy growing up in Mason County, I never dreamed that this would be my career,” said Commissioner Douglass, now in his 11th, 4-year term. “I never expected to be in this office as long as I have. It just always seemed as though there was something more that needed to be accomplished.”

He said he was extremely grateful for the support he has received from West Virginia’s farm community and its voters.

“It’s humbling when I look back and realize the faith the West Virginia people have had in me to elect me 11 times, especially in the rural communities that I have always tried to represent,” he said.

Commissioner Douglass, 84, was recruited to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) as an assistant commissioner by then-Commissioner John T. Johnson in 1957. He was first elected commissioner in 1964 and has served continuously, except for 1988-1992 when he stepped away from the WVDA to run for governor. In addition to his position as Commissioner of Agriculture, he and his son Tom operate their 540-acre family farm in Mason County, specializing in beef cattle and hay production.

He is the nation’s senior agriculture commissioner, and the longest-serving agriculture commissioner in U.S. history. He is the only West Virginian to be elected FFA national president. He presided over the first FFA national conference following World War II. Later, he helped to organize and served as first president of the National FFA Alumni Association.

He has served as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA), and was chairman of the Southern Regional Committee for Food and Agriculture under President Jimmy Carter. Additionally, Commissioner Douglass has served twice as president of the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA). He also participated as a member of several national agriculture committees and task forces, and has been called upon to give testimony before Congressional committees regarding national agricultural policy.

He chaired the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on Foreign Animal and Poultry Diseases an unprecedented four times, representing all state departments of agriculture during periods of international animal disease crisis.

In 2002, Commissioner Douglass was presented the prestigious Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Administrator’s Award for his work safeguarding America’s animal and plant industries.

Commissioner Douglass chairs the State Conservation Committee, and is a member of the West Virginia Housing Development Fund and Air Quality Board, a director for Peoples Bank of Point Pleasant, and a former trustee for Pleasant Valley Hospital. He is a member of the board of the State Farm Museum, and is on the board of directors for the State Fair of West Virginia.

He and his wife Anna Lee have four children, six grandchildren and a growing collection of great-grandchildren. They belong to the Leon Baptist Church. Commissioner Douglass is a Mason and a Shriner.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture protects plant, animal and human health through a variety of scientific, regulatory and consumer protection programs, as mandated by state law. The Commissioner of Agriculture is one of six statewide elected officials in West Virginia. For more information, visit www.wvagriculture.org.

“The Basis of All Wealth is Agriculture.”


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