Russians to visit W.Va. dairy farmers

February 17, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - About 15 Russian dairy officials will tour local dairy farms and food companies Wednesday to gain a better understanding of the industry, according to officials.

The Russian delegation arriving here Wednesday will concentrate on how the dairy industry operates in a free-market economy, said Craig Yohn, a Jefferson County, W.Va., extension agent who helped organize the visit.

The Russian dairy officials will learn how to set up cooperative agreements with other producers so they can pool their resources and market their products more effectively, said Yohn. Most of Russians in the group are involved in processing and marketing milk, Yohn said.


Russians have visited the Eastern Panhandle on numerous occasions to study the U.S. tax system and other business-related issues.

Before the fall of communism in Russia, the country operated under a "command economy," where the government decided what was produced, who produced it and where it was to be made.

The Russian group will meet with three local dairy farmers - Ward Zigler of Jefferson County, Elmer Vickers of Kearneysville, W.Va., and Fred Gold Butler of Inwood, W.Va. - to understand the inner workings of the U.S. dairy market, Yohn said.

The Russian delegation will visit four local dairy farms in the Panhandle, including the Phil Harmison farm in Morgan County, the Steve Linton farm near Hedgesville, W.Va., and the Richard Blue Farm and the Greystone Farm in Jefferson County.

The group will tour the new Martin's Food Market on Foxcroft Avenue in Martinsburg to get an idea how U.S. dairy products are marketed, officials said.

Yohn said the visit is part of a long national tour the Russians are completing. Before coming to the Eastern Panhandle, the group will visit a number of dairy processing plants in the Washington, D.C., area, Yohn said.

Several local organizations are involved in the project, including Shepherd College's Institute for International Trade, Training and Development, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Special American Business Internship Program and the West Virginia International Trade Development Council.

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