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West Virginia Politics WV Elections 2020

Interview with William J.R. Keplinger-Democratic Candidate for WV Commissioner of Agriculture

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William Keplinger-Article

Welcome to this edition of the Richard Urban show. I’m your host Richard Urban, coming to you from historic Harpers Ferry, W.V. We present news and views from God’s point of view. Today, May 21, we’re very happy to have William Keplinger on. He’s running for Commissioner of Agriculture on the Democratic ticket. So please introduce yourself and tell us about yourself or your family, whatever you’d like to introduce.

“Okay, I appreciate it, thank you, Richard. I’m William J.R. Keplinger or most people call me JR. That’s my nickname and actually that’s my name. I’m 51 years old, I live in Moorefield, W.V. I’m a third generation farmer, and I’ve got to tell you, one of the proud things. I got a letter in the mail. I am proudly endorsed the West Virginia Farm Bureau, so that was something, that I’ve been a Farm Bureau member for 30 years,” Keplinger said.

“I’ve been married to my wife, Stacy my lovely wife, of 18 years, I’ve got to compliment her; maybe she’ll see the video.  I have two lovely children. I have Makenzie my daughter and William is my son. I live on a family farm on South Fork, that’s outside of Moorefield, and we raised 700,000 broiler chickens and 65 head of brood cows. Then I went to West Virginia University and studied resource management and economics at the school of agriculture, WVU.  I graduated from there in 1991 and started a business providing bedding for farm animals and it’s called Keplinger Shavings and it’s still in operation today. So I’m quite proud of a successful business. You definitely need to understand business, if you’re going to help someone in your state. That’s one of the requirements that you must have, you need to know business. And so after that I started the business. In 2000 I ran for County Commissioner, Hardy County Commissioner and I got elected. I’ve served 18 years as a Hardy County Commissioner and during that time, I was also on the West Virginia County Commissioners Association Board and served there for 12 years, which, that was so many wonderful people I got to meet across the state. We had meetings in different counties throughout the state, and it was just a lot of networking. You got to understand how counties operate how the different problems at each county, all 55 have similar problems and they handle it in different ways and it works.  You need to talk to one another to find out what works and how to solve. Why reinvent that wheel?  So that networking is very important.  And so that’s some of the experience that I’ve gained from that, “Keplinger continued.

Richard: Okay, thanks for sharing. What are your three main campaign points or three main issues that you’ll most emphasize?

“The one thing that I want to see is I want to expand and improve on agriculture.  We have technology out there today that most people, they haven’t seen, they haven’t heard.  And the easier way; we have high tunnels now, the way you can climate control and grow vegetables.  And the same thing with high tunnels goes into the poultry business, which I’ve been in for several years. You climate control everything. You know what you’re heat is, know what your water flow, what your temperature is, you can increase it or you can lower it, and that promotes the number of the days that you can grow a product. And on food safety we went through this terrible medical emergency, we had the corona virus hit us and we see the importance of quality food and so food safety and animal safety in the animal health. We have to help those farmers and help the public, the citizens of state of West Virginia be able to have a resource of safe and quality food and be able to purchase that local quality food, and just to increase the awareness of agriculture. I want to promote the youth in agriculture. I think 4-H, some of the most important youth programs out there, they inspire leadership and citizenship and community involvement. And that’s the three of the many that I can touch upon that, I think it’s very important that we need to work on with the Agriculture Department and work with people” Keplinger answered.

Richard: “Well, I want to interject one thing about food safety. So do you feel there’s a dynamic or conflict between the GMO crops and organic crops, or those kind of practices? Is that causing some problem?  I was reading sometimes that some farmers are saying, there’s cross-contamination.  Is that an issue here in West Virginia that you’ve seen or is that causing any trouble?

“I haven’t seen any trouble on it, but we’ve got to be environmentally aware of what we use and what we do. And a farmer, he knows what he has to do, he’s not gonna use too many chemicals or anything that is not necessary because that’s a cost to him.  He’s in it to make a profit.  He doesn’t make a lot of profit; some of the farmers just barely get by.  But a successful farm knows how they need to diversify our and they need to do certain things to make their product successful and grow. And as far as some of the largest farms, you have to have some type of a Round-Up Ready corn.  The smaller farms, vegetable garden, things of that nature, you can have companion plants. And what are those?  They are allow to attract the bugs away from your plants that you’re growing, your vegetables. So those are some techniques that help on the natural side,” Keplinger responded.

Richard: So you feel that those like the Round-Up things are necessary for the larger farms? They use those right?

“They are and if there’s something better out there we got to continue to research and find better ways of producing things and better ways of protecting our crops. Technology is there, we just need to advance it further, we need to be aware of what opportunities we have and that’s where the education value comes in. And the youth, we need to find a place for our youth in our agriculture future. My daughter was in DECA, and she went to the state, won state honors. And when this corona virus it knocked that nationals out, She was all fired up. She was going to Nashville, Tennessee,” Keplinger added.

Richard: Okay, About the COVID-19 – has that affected your operational? We’ve seen or heard, or seeing that there’s some shortages of like meat, or is it affected? Maybe farmers are not so much in West Virginia.

“Well as a farmer we’re always bio-secure. We have to worry about diseases in whatever manner for our farms, our culture farms. Or probably more bio-secure than any. But even your cattle farms, you need to be aware of the potential diseases that are out there and safeguard yourself. And so we were a little bit more aware of possibilities and potential scares, more than the public, but as far as changes we just practiced the same methods that were given to us from the CDC and social distancing,” Keplinger said.

Richard: Do farm subsidies come into play much in West Virginia? Do you think they’re a good idea or a bad idea? Should it be more just market-driven?

“Well, I do believe the market should help us more than anything.  Subsidies are there for a reason, and if you’re honest, and you need help, being it a drought or, whatever it may be, that’s what they’re there for. They’re for a crisis situation to where you need help, through an area where an economy burst just kind of slows your whole production down. And then that could be a possibility to help sustain those people until they get back on their feet,” Keplinger answered.

 Richard: I think it came up in my other interview. Do you think the products should be labeled for country of origin or do you not or do you have any opinion about that?

“Oh yeah, I do believe. I believe it’s called COOL, country of origin labeling yes, I do believe that I would want to know where my products come from. If I’m eating a hamburger, I would want to know if its Argentina or what have you, and you know, my preference would be West Virginia, that’s where I would like to see it from. And I think that’s one of my platforms, I would like to see, I think West Virginia needs to create a branding. You look at Kentucky. They have Kentucky brand beef,” Keplinger responded.

Richard: The GMO labeling, would you support that? I think that’s been very contentious as far as I know. I guess it’s more national issue but should things be labeled if they have GMO?

“Well, yeah, they should be labeled. It shouldn’t be deceiving in any manner. I have no problem about that,” Keplinger said.

Richard: Just to wrap up, are any other things you’d like to share with the voters, like how you may differentiate or why should they vote for you versus the other couple of candidates? I know in the primary you have a two opponents there.

“Well, for one, I’ll go through a little list of what I’ve done. Of course, I’ve been a third generation farmer.  I’ve owned a business for 30 years successfully, and still operating the farm.  I was a County Commissioner for 18 years I served on the secure Rural Schools program I was on West Virginia insurance risk pool. I was on the West Virginia County Commissions Association Board,” Keplinger said.

“I was on the Planning Commission for Hardy County.  I was on the Regional Waste Water Authority; it was a $41 million project that helped the Chesapeake Bay.  And I try to be a good steward of the land as well as a farmer.  Career Technology Educational Advisory Council, Hardy County Public Park Region 8 Council, the Extension Service Committee and so many others…. So I’ve been quite busy through my years,” Keplinger continued.

“Food safety is a priority of our citizens of the state of West Virginia. Education is essential for the future of agriculture. Technology is growing in the agriculture industry at a tremendous pace. We need to support our youth organizations like 4-H and FFA and help our children learn about agriculture, leadership and community. Our agriculture industry needs our children to be part of our agriculture future as we maneuver through these trying times. With the medical crisis upon us, our need for safe food and abundant food resources and bio-security are well understood. We need to market West Virginia products. We need to allow citizens of our state the opportunity to purchase West Virginia grown products,” Keplinger concluded.

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