The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources was held on Thursday, August 21, 2008, at 10:00 AM, in the VIP Board Room of the Kentucky State Fairgrounds. Representative Tom McKee, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representatives Jim Gooch Jr., Co-Chair, and Tom McKee, Co-Chair; Senators David E. Boswell, Ernie Harris, Vernie McGaha, Joey Pendleton, Dorsey Ridley, Brandon Smith, and Damon Thayer; Representatives Royce W. Adams, Johnny Bell, Dwight D. Butler, Mike Cherry, Hubert Collins, James R. Comer Jr., Tim Couch, Mike Denham, C. B. Embry Jr., Jeff Greer, Jimmy Higdon, Charlie Hoffman, Reginald Meeks, Brad Montell, Tim Moore, David Osborne, Don Pasley, Tanya Pullin, Marie Rader, Rick Rand, Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, Dottie Sims, Jim Stewart III, Greg Stumbo, Tommy Turner, Ken Upchurch, Robin L. Webb, and Susan Westrom.
Guests: Stephen Yates, Mark Farrow, John Roberts, and Mac Stone, Kentucky Department of Agriculture; Charley Eastin, Charles Eastin, II, National Agriculture Council; Will Snell, Drew Graham, University of Kentucky; Kara Keeton, Keeton Communications; Joe Cain, Laura Knoth, Jeff Harper, Kentucky Farm Bureau; Abby Powell, Division of Water; Roger Thomas, Joel Neaveill, Angela Blank, and Tim Hughes, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, and Former State Representative Adrian Arnold.
Legislative Guests: Senator David Williams, Representatives Jody Richards, Rocky Adkins, Larry Clark, Bob Damron, and John Will Stacy.
LRC Staff: Lowell Atchley, Stefan Kasacavage, and Kelly Blevins.
Chairman McKee noted that a quorum was present and asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the July 9, 2008 minutes. Senator Pendleton made the motion with Representative Montell as the second. The motion carried by voice vote. Representative McKee thanked President Harold Workman and the Fair Board members for their hospitality then asked members of the committee and Fair Board to introduce themselves.
Next, Chairman McKee recognized Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer. Commissioner Farmer expressed his thoughts on the importance of exposition center, his excitement about the recent expansion, and how that places our state in a competitive market for special events. Commissioner Farmer also mentioned the Kentucky Proud Program has generated $120 to 125 million in retail sales of Kentucky Proud products in the last two years. Thanked the committee for their support of such programs.
Chairman McKee then recognized Ron Carmicle, Vice-Chair of the Kentucky State Fair Board. Mr. Carmicle noted that the Board works diligently to be good stewards and thanked the committee for the financial support and encouraged future support.
Next, Harold Workman, President and CEO of the State Fair Board welcomed the committee to the 104th Kentucky State Fair. Mr. Workman stated that the State Fair is an agricultural fair and that almost half of the Fair Board represents agricultural organizations. He said it is important to them to keep that thread of agriculture flowing through the facility. The 2008 Kentucky State Fair has brought quality livestock, as good as he has ever seen, he said. He noted that the youth shows are remaining strong in participants and maintaining that is a goal of the Board. Mr. Workman said that the Fair is a well-balanced Fair, with many exhibits that represent many facets of Kentucky.
Mr. Workman mentioned that the Fair Board has the responsibility to operate the Kentucky Exposition Center and Kentucky International Center. He stated the facility is the fifth largest of its type, hosts five or six of the top trade shows in the country.
Mr. Workman went on to thank the General Assembly for its $107 million investment in this property, with the addition of North Wing adding 250,000 square feet of Class A space which is vitally important in encouraging trade shows to locate here. Figures from three years ago showed, the economic impact at $453 million, but it would be well over $500 million today, he said. Mr. Workman stated the change was important and because of the number and size of trade shows they are now bringing in, the area needs to grow as well. He mentioned projects that are currently in development such as an amphitheater on the existing property. Also, Mr. Workman shared details on a study for a new full-service hotel within the main gate including a pedway into the center.
Senator Williams asked if he was correct that the Executive Inn was to be torn down as part of the developments.
Mr. Workman replied that the property will be demolished in December and they are currently studying the property to find the best use for it. He stated that one of the major inquiries by guests to the facility is in regards to nearby retail stores and restaurants.
Representative Denham added that exhibitors seem very pleased with the North Wing. He also mentioned Mr. Tolle, State Fair Board member, and noted his appreciation for the work that he does to involve the people of their district in the Sale of Champions.
Senator Pendleton mentioned prize money at the expositions such as the North American International Livestock Exposition. He compared it to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin which have put more money into their shows. He noted that a participant in the Pennsylvania show last year won $4,000 but the same participant in the show here in Kentucky won $175. He said that if we are sincere about keeping the world’s largest livestock shows we need to look at adding funding.
Representative Webb asked about the amphitheater seating and what they were looking at with the expansion. Mr. Workman replied that the current seating is 7,000 to 8,000 and they are looking to expand to 10,000 -12, 000 seats with the new facility.
Senator Smith mentioned the idea of a special excused absence for school children who attend the fair and suggested incorporating parts of the fair into the school curriculum.
Mr. Workman commented that when schools backed up their start dates to where those overlapped, State Fair attendance dropped 75,000 in that year alone. He said they haven’t gained that back and do not expect to. He noted that the economic loss was in the millions of dollars.
Next, Stephen Yates updated the committee on the status of the Kentucky Farms are Fun program. He noted that there are 269 agri-tourism venues listed now on their Web site, which is a great vehicle to get the information out to the public. They give the local businesses a Web presence and get their information out to the customers. He mentioned that September is Agri-tourism Month and they are very excited about promoting the program and Kentucky businesses. A copy of the handout is on file in the LRC Library.
Representative Denham complimented Mr. Yates on their work and mentioned that in a current study, agri-tourism in the state of Kentucky is now a $2 billion industry.
Finally, Mark Farrow updated the committee on the half-price motor fuel emergency regulation. He noted that many stations have still not received updated equipment for the pumps to display sales above $4.00. The Department of Agriculture filed emergency regulations extending the date to August 31, 2008 for those stations who show they have followed the proper procedures to obtain the equipment for their pumps.
Representative Collins noted that production seems to have increased and stations are beginning to receive their equipment.
Mr. Farrow replied that it seems to be working well and the Department is attempting to work with the retail distributors as much as they can.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.