News Date: 11/21/2008
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Gus Douglass was elected to his 11th term in office November 4 and vowed to continue to improve food safety, direct marketing of West Virginia Grown products, and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture's (WVDA) emergency response capabilities in what he said will be his final term.
"The confidence West Virginia residents have placed in me has not been misplaced, and I will continue to move this Department into the future," said Commissioner Douglass.
His platform included the creation of a new food safety laboratory to replace aging facilities at WVDA headquarters, grants to aid in the development of four additional year-round farmers' markets in the state, and further restructuring of the Department as an emergency response agency.
"One advantage of having served so long in this capacity is an extended sense of perspective. I have seen so many issues come and go, and I see many threats on the horizon to plant and animal health and to our food supply in this country. Departments across the nation are going to need to become mobile and prepared to respond to emergencies in the field that we have not yet seen," he said, noting specifically the possibility of an influenza pandemic or terror attack against the nation's food supply.
WVDA already has nearly a third of its workforce trained in standardized incident management principles and emergency response. It also has assembled a fleet of emergency response vehicles and equipment, including a fully equipped, bio-secure, mobile laboratory that can be moved to the scene of a disease outbreak, rather than transporting potentially dangerous samples to a fixed laboratory facility.
Commissioner Douglass was first elected in 1964 and served continuously until he was defeated in a run for governor in 1988. He was again elected agriculture commissioner in 1992 and has held the post since. He is the nation's longest serving state agriculture commissioner.
He has served as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and the 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 participated as a member of several national agriculture committees and task forces, and has been frequently called upon to give testimony before Congressional committees regarding national agriculture policy.
Commissioner Douglass 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 animal health emergencies. He has served extensively on three NASDA committees, including International Marketing and Trade, Food Regulation and Nutrition, and Animal and Plant Industries.
He was state and national FFA president, and served as the first president of the National FFA Alumni Association. In addition, he and his son Tom operate their 540-acre family farm in Mason County, West Virginia, specializing in beef cattle and hay production. He and his wife Anna Lee have four children, six grandchildren, two great-grandsons and three great-granddaughters.
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.
Currently, Commissioner Gus R. Douglass is the longest-serving agriculture commissioner in the nation. For more information, visit http://www.wvagriculture.org.
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