|Program||# of Grants||EDA Funds|
|Economic Adjustment Assistance||5||$2,800,150|
West Virginia’s economy has been severely impacted by the contractions of the coal industry and the negative economic impact is concentrated in southern West Virginia. According to the Energy Information Administration, total coal output from West Virginia underground and surface mine operations fell to 113 million short tons in 2013, marking the lowest amount produced in the state since the early 1980s. The need for economic diversification in the region is most evident in the areas that have depended on coal for generations. West Virginia, which once employed more than 130,000 coal miners, now has a coal mining workforce of 20,000 miners, and this downward trend is projected to continue in the next few years.
The southern West Virginia/eastern Kentucky region has enormous potential for sustainable agriculture applications on idle surface mined and farmlands. However, major agriculture business opportunities are being missed by the lack of a system to prepare a workforce with sound agriculture skills and complimentary business skills needed for profitability and growth. Even those beginning farmers with substantial training in agriculture production lack business decision-making skills. The typical farm in West Virginia is 150 acres or less with an average income of $25,000/year, with the largest percentage of farms reporting less than $1,000/year in revenue. Most farms in the region are sole proprietorships with one or less full-time job equivalent.
However, demand for consistently available local and fresh products from individual consumers and volume-buyers (hospitals, schools, jails, etc.) is rising and creating opportunities for sustainable employment in agriculture. Southern West Virginia is in a unique position to take advantage of this economic opportunity, transitioning idle surface mine lands to revenue-generating agriculture production sites and providing the skills and training necessary to put dislocated workers, veterans, and young farmers back to work. In 2015, EDA awarded $600,000 to support the Coalfield Development Corporation’s Regional Economic Diversification Project. The primary objectives of this project include increased agricultural production called the Refresh Appalachia: Agricultural Entrepreneurship Development Program. Refresh Appalachia will include the launch of a business incubator and extensive agriculture training and workshops to address the need for a skilled agriculture workforce.