Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources

 

Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 5th Meeting

of the 2008 Interim

 

<MeetMDY1> October 8, 2008

 

The<MeetNo2> 5th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources was held on<Day> Wednesday,<MeetMDY2> October 8, 2008, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Tom McKee, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

Present were:

 

Members:<Members> Representatives Jim Gooch Jr., Co-Chair, and Tom McKee, Co-Chair; Senators David E. Boswell, Ernie Harris, Dan Kelly, Bob Leeper, Vernie McGaha, Brandon Smith, and Damon Thayer; Representatives Royce W. Adams, John A. Arnold Jr., Dwight D. Butler, Hubert Collins, James R. Comer Jr., Tim Couch, Mike Denham, C. B. Embry Jr., Keith Hall, Richard Henderson, Jimmy Higdon, Charlie Hoffman, Brad Montell, Fred Nesler, David Osborne, Sannie Overly, 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.

 

Legislative Guests: Representatives Jody Richards and Rick Nelson.

 

Guests:† Aaron Reding and Jack Trumbo, Kentucky Soybean Association; Todd Barlow, Kentucky Corn Growers Association; Jim Akers, Kentucky Cattlemenís Association; Mike Ovesen, Kentucky Pork Producers; Dr. Tony Pescatore, Kentucky Poultry Federation; Maury Cox, Kentucky Dairy Development Council; Jim Corum, Don Girton, J.G. Kuhns, J. Henry Duncan, Joe Ball, and Jessica Jones, Kentucky Woodland Owners Association; Bob Bauer, Kentucky Forest Industries Association; Leah MacSwords and Steve Bullard, Kentucky Division of Forestry; Sandy Gruzesky, Alan Grant, Ron Price, and Peter Goodmann, Kentucky Division of Water.

 

LRC Staff:† Tanya Monsanto, Lowell Atchley, Stefan Kasacavage, and Kelly Blevins.

 

A quorum being present, Rep. McKee commenced the meeting with a moment of silence in memory of Rep. Larry Belcher who was killed in a tragic car accident over the weekend.† Then Rep. McKee discussed a resolution pertaining requesting the federal government to declare parts of Kentucky a disaster after prolonged drought.† After a motion and second, the resolution was adopted.† Then, Rep. Gooch discussed a committee resolution relating to recent actions by former vice president Al Gore to encourage civil disobedience to prevent to construction of new coal fired power plants.† The resolution calls for civil order and ignore such calls for disobedience.† After a motion and second, the resolution was adopted.

 

Rep. Collins mentioned that people try to step outside of the legal policy process rather than accept what the policy results.† Sen. Boswell stated that bipartisanship is important in the energy issue and there should not be disorder. Then, both Sen. Kelly and Rep. Nesler introduced guests. Rep. McKee then invited the Soybean Association to provide testimony.

 

Aaron Reding and Jack Trumbo discussed animal agriculture and the associationís partnership with the industry.† Livestock, poultry and soybeans work to produce healthy animals.† Then the speakers discussed the economic impact of the industry in terms of earnings and employment.† Then they described efforts to undermine animal agriculture by pressing for bans on crate barns, gestation stall and other aspects of factory farming.† They calls for efforts to prevent unnecessary restrictions and welcomed reasonable regulation.

 

Rep. Nesler asked about their position on county wide planning and zoning.† Mr. Reding responded that the association is in favor of any zoning that allows for necessary building.† Rep. Riner asked about imports from Mexico where factory farm techniques are commonplace. Mr. Trumbo stated there are factory farms in Mexico.† The facilities are geared for peak production. Rep. Riner continued stating that a resolution should be crafted requiring country of origin on those products.

 

Then Todd Barlow, representing the corn and small grain growers, provided testimony.† Mr. Barlow stated that his perspective is from those in row crops.† Kentucky is unique in the way commodity organizations work together.† Then, Mr. Barlow offered some statistics in terms of percentage of crop that went to livestock both in the United States and in Kentucky.†† He stated only 15 percent went to ethanol and 17 percent is exported.† The association has set aside funds for research and for the promotion of meat, pork and lamb overseas. †Additional money was set aside for poultry marketing overseas.† Then, Mr. Barlow discussed recruitment and retention of dairies in Kentucky.† Finally he discussed a couple of legislative proposals.† First, allow 150 miles of haulage of farm products in-state without a commercial driverís license.† Second, increase the limit on the grain indemnity fund to over $150,000.

Rep. McKee asked if fuel and food can be produced simultaneously. Mr. Barlow stated yes.† Rep. Webb asked about the specific problem with the CDL.† Is the process too hard?† Mr. Barlow responded that there may be some alternative process rather than doing away with the CDL.† It is an inconvenience for farmers.† Rep. Stumbo asked what percentage of the corn crop is covered by insurance.†† Mr. Barlow stated that the percentage of crop insurance is high on paper but is worthless in practicality because of the lack of good coverage.† Other government programs exist, but for example, the farm bill support isnít timely enough.

 

Then, Jim Akers with the Kentucky Cattlemanís Association described the cattle industry.† Mr. Akers stated that Kentucky has been insulated from the wholesale reduction in cow herds felt across the country.† Mr. Akers continued that the industry is not immune from the types of policy assaults from the animal rights community.† However, we have ensured that there is compliance with the handling of animals.† Rep. Steward asked whether Bluegrass Stockyards is disinfected.† Mr. Akers replied no because disinfection does not work adequately in facilities with a dirt floor.† We do disinfect water and veterinary facilities.† Rep. Steward furthered that in Virginia the stockyards are disinfected and that Kentucky has some of the nastiest stockyards in the nation.† He stated that disinfection would help with cattle sickness and make them more attractive to buyers.† Finally, Rep. Stewart asked if the association would be against identifying all the sellers on receipts.† Mr. Akers responded that he objects to listing sellers on paper.† Regarding the disinfection process, the science shows that large scale disinfection is not economically efficient, but they welcome economic assistance with disinfection.†

 

Rep. Webb asked about cattle thefts and the process for ensuring stolen cattle do not end up in their markets.† Mr. Akers stated that there are tight controls.† It would not be possible to sell the stolen cattle.

 

Mike Ovesen, Kentucky Pork Producers Association, provided information about the pork industry.† He stated that animal cruelty has been one of the biggest issues for pork producers.† Pork producers have a lot of large farms in Kentucky and then he described the relationship between pork producers and the grain farmers.† Mr. Ovesen described a quality assurance program and a trucker quality assurance program, and separate auditing of facilities as reasons for maintaining the quality in pork production.

 

Rep. McKee asked if there are a decreasing number of swine facilities.† Mr. Ovesen replied that producers are consolidating so they have access to capital; however the feeder pig industry has all but disappeared.† Sen. Kelly stated that the pork producers association has done a commendable job.† Mr. Ovesen agreed and stated that the pork industry is complex.† Today, the citizen oftentimes is so removed from the realities of agricultural production.

 

Joe Pescatore, poultry extension specialist with the University of Kentucky, agricultural extension, provided remarks concerning the poultry industry in Kentucky.† He stated that poultry is the number one food commodity in Kentucky.† It is an $843 million dollar industry.† Dr. Pescatore agreed that there needs to be an increase in weight limits so that trucks can haul to and from the farms.

 

Then Maury Cox with the Dairy Development Council described the dairy industry.† He stated that dairy ranks 4th in terms of farm gate receipts.† The dairy losses are significant today.† We have 90,000 dairy cows in Kentucky, but we are experiencing a loss in processing milk.† Kentucky can process 2.5 billion gallons, but we are only producing roughly half that amount.† Milk prices continue to decline even as the milk to feed ratio tightens.† This indicates a tougher time for farmers.† Milk is coming in from other states and the reason the raw milk isnít processed here is that it is cheaper to transport the processed milk to Kentucky.†

 

Sen. Harris asked if there is a premium for butter fat over 3.5%.† Yes, replied Mr. Cox.† The butter fat price is figured in the price of the milk.† Then, Rep. McKee asked for a motion and a second for the approval of the July minutes.† The minutes were approved.† Then, co-chairs from the three subcommittees gave their subcommittee reports.† After a motion and a second, all three reports were approved.†

 

Jim Corum and Don Girton discussed the state of the forest industry in Kentucky. He described the groups that provided input to the findings of the presentation which included the Kentucky Woodland Owners Association, Kentucky Forest Industries, Kentucky Farm Bureau, and the Division of Forestry. Then, Mr. Corum described the industry in terms of its productivity and economic value and made recommendations on how to improve the economic impact of that industry.

 

Rep. Nesler asked who produces and collects fines for the bad actor list.† Why arenít they collecting?† Mr. Corum stated that it is not clearly understood.† Then, Leah McSwords with the Division of Forestry explained that the problem is in disregard by the bad actors.† The division goes through a civil process and must locate the loggerís assets.† Also, the division cannot impose a cease and desist order, so they are not stopped if the fines arenít paid.† Finally there are no criminal penalties.

 

Rep. Nelson asked who writes citations.† Ms. McSwords replied the Division of Forestry inspects and issues violations for noncompliance.† A question was raised about the number of bad actors in the Eastern versus Western parts of Kentucky.† Ms McSwords continued that the difference between the two regions is due to how timber buyers impose discipline on the sellers.† The buyers impose pressure on the sellers and this doesnít occur in the Eastern part of the state.

 

Rep. Pullin asked about losses from wildfires.† Ms. McSwords stated there is no grand total, but roughly $2-3 million is spend on fire suppression.† Rep. Denham asked for a copy of the PowerPoint and then introduced a guest.† He also asked about the conditions in Eastern Kentucky.† Ms. McSwords discussed the current burn bans and explained that while there are conditions of dryness, most of the fires are deliberately set.

 

Rep. Denham commended the Division of Forestry for their efforts and Rep. McKee thanked Rep. Nelson for bringing this issue to the committeeís attention.† Rep. Nelson stated that Speaker Richards has approved a House Task Force on the Forestry issue and invited Senate colleagues to participate in a joint task force on woodland issues.† This industry has a $4.6 billion dollar impact on the state.

 

Rep. Collins stated that the bad actor list doesnít describe the county and the violation and furthered that the violation could be corrected with consultation.† The Division of Forestry retorted that the Forest Conservation Act was set up in the manner he described.† First we talk with the violator, and then we issue a warning and then offer an informal conference.† If after warning and consultation the violation continues then the division issues a notice of violation and set a period of time for correction.† Only after that time is lapsed does the division issue a violation and determine a fine.† That is ample consultation.

Rep. Webb stated there were concerns crafting that act, but no complaints have since been received.† The budget for Natural Resources took a hard hit and Forestry was cut severely.† They need money.† Then Rep. Collins asked Darin Moore to discuss a regulation involved elk depredation permits.† Rep. Turner then expressed anger that he and Rep. Collins were not consulted on the development of the regulation.† Both indicated that there was a formal agreement to do so.† Then Rep. McKee asked Mr. Moore if the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources would agree to a deferral and the agency agreed.† The regulation 301 KAR 2:132 was deferred until the next meeting.† The committee adjourned at 3:15pm.