Both business and labor have endorsed Walt Helmick in the commissioner of agriculture race.
The endorsements, from UMWA and Friends of Coal, were announced Oct. 10 The UMWA cited Helmick's "commitment to develop former surface mine locations as agriculture sites" as the reason for its endorsement.
"Walt Helmick's desire to promote agriculture-based jobs at former mine sites and economic development throughout West Virginia helps miners and everyone else who lives in rural areas," said Ted Hapney, southeast regional coordinator of the Coal Miners Political Action Committee of the UMWA.
Helmick said former mine sites have untapped potential.
"If we work with our universities and industry, we can significantly increase the amount of agricultural activity in Southern and Central West Virginia," he said. "We must be proactive and develop our own job creation opportunities."
Helmick's ideas to convert former mine sites into agricultural sites has also drawn the attention of Friends of Coal, the political action committee of the West Virginia Coal Association. Bill Raney, president of the Coal Association, said that while coal mining is not under the purview of the agriculture commissioner, Helmick's interest in reclaiming former sites has earned him the endorsement.
"These former mine sties located throughout our state have the potential to become major agri-business assets," Helmick said. "It will take the involvement of industry, our research institutions and the Department of Agriculture to make this type of development a reality."
Helmick, a Democrat, faces Republican Kent Leonhardt in the Nov. 6 election.