Call to Order and Roll Call
The2nd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, at 10:00 AM, at Fresh Start Farms, Hodgenville, Kentucky. Senator Paul Hornback, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Paul Hornback, Co-Chair; Representative Tom McKee, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., Carroll Gibson, David P. Givens, Stan Humphries, Dennis Parrett, Dorsey Ridley, Robin L. Webb, and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Lynn Bechler, Jim DeCesare, Derrick Graham, Richard Heath, James Kay, Kim King, Michael Meredith, Suzanne Miles, Terry Mills, Ryan Quarles, Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, Jonathan Shell, John Short, Rita Smart, and Wilson Stone.
Guests: Ryan Bivens, LaRue County farmer, Kentucky Soybean Industry; Mike Burchett, Calloway County farmer, Kentucky Soybean Industry; Jonathan Miller, McLean County farmer, Kentucky Soybean Industry; Larry Thomas, Hardin County farmer, Kentucky Soybean Industry; Kori Andrews, Smith Management Group; LaRue County Judge Executive Tommy Turner and members of the Future Farmers of America, LaRue County.
Upon motion of Representative Derrick Graham and seconded by Representative Wilson Stone, the June 11, 2014 minutes were approved by voice vote.
Overview of the Kentucky Soybean Industry
Ryan Bivens, owner and operator of Fresh Start Farms said that, in 2001, he started farming with zero acres. He now farms 6,400 acres consisting of corn, soybeans, and wheat. In 2012, his family was chosen as the Kentucky Farm Bureau Outstanding Young Farm Family and also won the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award.
Mr. Bivens stated that the Kentucky Soybean Association (KSA) has over 1,000 members and is led by 19 farmer-directors who are elected by the members. The mission of KSA is to advocate for soybean farmers in federal and state policymaking and farmer education. Soybean growers contribute half of one percent of every bushel sold to the Kentucky Soybean Board (KSB). The Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board keeps half and the United Soybean Board receives the other half. The money is invested and used for research and market development projects.
Mr. Blevins stated that soybeans are 80 percent meal and 20 percent oil. Kentucky is 18th in the nation for soybean meal usage, which is primarily in the poultry industry along with horses, sheep, goats, and aquaculture.
Issues Affecting Kentucky Soybean Farmers
Mr. Mike Burchett, Calloway County farmer, explained that agriculture is especially dependent on functional roads and bridges in order to get their products to the market. Support from state leaders would be beneficial in keeping the federal government’s attention on inland waterways. There is a financing proposal pending in Congress, including a 9-cent-per-gallon increase in the barge diesel fuel user fee. Commercial shippers support the tax increase. It is crucial to Kentucky that the financing method not be lock fees since Kentucky has multiple locks and dams on the Ohio River. Soybeans are Kentucky’s second largest agriculture export product.
As to other transportation issues, Mr. Burchett stated that farmers cross state lines to haul grain or equipment. Vehicle enforcement actions by the Department of Transportation continue to be inconsistent, even in other states. Weight tolerance on commercial trucks moving farm goods needs to be changed to allow a 10 percent gross weight variance. The change would have a direct impact on farmers having to use commercial grain haulers and would also help poultry growers move their product from the farm.
Mr. Burchett said that biodiesel should be supported because of air quality improvements, reducing carbon footprint and reducing dependence on foreign petroleum.
In response to Senator Gibson, Mr. Bivens stated that farmers are open to all options regarding transportation methods. He is not opposed to using the new Brandenburg regional port facility, but finances are important. Moisture control machines are regulated by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
In response to Senator Givens, Mr. Bivens said that purchasing a farm and making it successful depend upon determination and working with good people.
In response to Representative Rudy, Mr. Bivens said that he paid approximately $6,400 per acre.
Several legislators expressed concerns regarding Vehicle Enforcement targeting grain trucks and coal trucks.
Food System Challenges
Mr. Jonathan Miller, McLean County farmer, stated that it was important for farmers to pull together to get the correct message out to consumers. There are many activist groups that are not qualified or educated about the subject matter that present challenges to food marketing, animal welfare, and genetically modified foods. That technology is helping soybean farmers to manage nutrients and protect water quality. The Kentucky Soybean Board is one of six states that partners with the Strategies Targeting American Agricultural Resources and Sustainability (STAARS) program. STAARS is a national, farmer-led initiative to improve farm profitability, energy efficiency, and environmental performance, while collecting, analyzing, and reporting data documenting current on-farm resource management and sustainability.
Representative Rita Smart stated that farmers, farm organizations, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture must push harder to get correct information to consumers.
Mr. Larry Thomas, Hardin County farmer, and Kori Andrews, Smith Management Group, discussed the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Authority Act. The Authority, a 15 member board appointed by the Governor, oversees statewide adoption of Agriculture Water Quality Plans and reviews Best Management Practices. Although it is mandatory for landowners who own 10 or more acres in agriculture or silviculture production to file their plans, there are a lot of farmers who do not complete their plans. The Authority will be renewing efforts to get more people signed up. Conservation districts have limited funding and not enough employees to help the farmers complete their plans. The University of Kentucky has been working with small dairy farmers to get their plans completed. Most farmers are willing to implement conservation practices, which has made a difference.
Ms. Kori Andrews, Smith Management Group, discussed state water quality issues. The Energy and Environment Cabinet, Division of Water, is developing a web-based mapping system called the Kentucky Water Health Portal, which will contain the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) information for streams and impaired waters. The main purpose of the Kentucky Nutrient Reduction Strategy is to address nutrient impairments in Kentucky waters. In the next few years, there will be much more discussion on the basis for water quality standards and the definition of impaired water.
Ms. Andrews explained the federal regulation that has been proposed jointly by the Environment Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Called the Waters of the United States Rule, the main purpose is to expand and broaden the definition of water for purposes of the Clean Water Act. The Rule will eventually affect Kentucky in that landowners will have to get permits to do something on their land. The American Farm Bureau Federation has a web-site that speaks to the regulation. The EPA says the Rule will result in a two percent increase in more waters being protected, and others say it will be the entire land. Under this Rule, it does not have to be wet to be water. More permits will be required. She said that Kentucky needs to be involved in this issue by commenting before October 20, 2014.
Chairman Hornback said that Kentucky was fortunate to have an abundance of water, but the regulations are prohibitive for the agriculture industry.
In response to Senator David Givens, Ms. Andrews said that the federal government has declared that water does not have to be wet.
Mr. Thomas noted that the Kentucky Geological Service has testing monitors across the state. The results will show exactly where contaminated water comes from.
A motion that the IJC on Agriculture submit a comment on the regulation before the October deadline was made by Senator Robin Webb and seconded by Representative Tom Riner. The motion passed, without objection, upon voice vote.
Chairman Hornback said that a copy of the comment would be prepared and submitted to the committee for approval at the August meeting.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.