Call to Order and Roll Call
The5th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Wednesday, October 8, 2014, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Tom McKee, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Paul Hornback, Co-Chair; Representative Tom McKee, Co-Chair; Senators Carroll Gibson, David P. Givens, Sara Beth Gregory, Dennis Parrett, Dorsey Ridley, Robin L. Webb, and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Lynn Bechler, Mike Denham, Myron Dossett, Jim Glenn, Derrick Graham, Richard Heath, James Kay, Kim King, Martha Jane King, Michael Meredith, Terry Mills, David Osborne, Ryan Quarles, Tom Riner, Bart Rowland, John Short, and Wilson Stone.
Legislative Guest: Representative Jimmie Lee.
Guests: Dr. Suzanne Weaver Smith, University of Kentucky, College of Engineering; Martin Richards, Executive Director, Community Farm Alliance, Ben Able, farmer and Community Farm Alliance Board President, Will Bowling, farmer and Community Farm Alliance member; Tamara Sandberg, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of Food Banks, and Paula Hamm Stearns, Locally Produced Foods Organization.
The September 5, 2014 minutes were approved upon voice vote, without objection, on motion by Representative Mike Denham and second by Senator Paul Hornback.
The Subcommittee Reports on Rural Issues and Horse Farming were approved upon voice vote, without objection, on motion by Representative Wilson Stone and second by Representative Terry Mills.
The letter to the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency regarding the proposed rulemaking on Waters of the United States along with attached roll call vote was approved, without objection, on motion by Representative Richard Heath and second by Representative Martha Jane King. Members for whom no vote was recorded were not present for the vote.
Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Agriculture
Dr. Suzanne Weaver Smith, University of Kentucky College of Engineering, discussed Kentucky’s opportunities for the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in agriculture. She said that the use of UAS and technology would benefit farmers as well as boost economic development. The estimated economic impact for Kentucky is at least 700 high paying jobs. The immediate agricultural use for UAS for farming is scouting for problems, soil evaluation, precision applications, yield estimates, and damage assessments. The first UAS was introduced in Japan in 1990. More than 2,500 Yamaha RMAX helicopters are in use. They are used for crop dusting, precision spraying, frost mitigation, and other agricultural activities. Other UASs available are specific–the Trimble UX5 carries cameras and other sensors to provide data that integrates with farm software.
Dr. Smith said that the current understanding of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is that no one can commercially operate an unmanned aerial system in the United States except for exempted movie production companies and two other companies that are doing pipeline inspections in Alaska. Farmers had requested to be exempt under model airplane rules for flying below 400 feet, but a clarification was issued in July stating that farmers were not exempt. New rules for small UAS integration into the national airspace are expected in 2015.
Some states have enacted legislation regarding UAS. Tennessee had added UAS to the state’s list of farm machinery purchases recognized for tax benefits. The UAS language is encourages manufacturers to locate in Tennessee and provides a benefit to farmers. Several states are investing in facilities to conduct research, training, and demonstrations. In 2013, the UK Unmanned Systems Research Consortium was formed for researchers and companies to collaborate for definition of research priorities and events. Dr. Smith said that Kentucky has a strong aerospace program that starts with high school networking, the Institute for Aerospace Education, which involves 30 school districts and 1,000 students across the state. Aerospace is Kentucky’s leading export. One other strong element of research and development of UAS are the returning veterans who are trained in their use. A Kentucky UAS facility location would require FAA approval. The best location would be adjacent to the agricultural experiment station.
In response to Senator Paul Hornback, Dr. Smith said that official rules for a small UAS could appear as early as 2015. The exemption process for use in farming could happen soon.
In response to Senator David Givens, Dr. Smith said that there is legislation on ways to deal with privacy issues and who would be responsible if suspicious activity were detected by a UAS. Privacy issues involving a UAS will have to be dealt with through state legislation.
Senator Robin Webb expressed concerns about using a UAS under false or disguised intent to monitor or harass law abiding hunters, trappers, anglers, and recreational animal users, or farm production of animal agriculture.
In response to Representative Kim King, Dr. Smith said that there is a Website for the UK Unmanned Systems Research Consortium. She will mail published articles, including the website information, to staff for distribution. With sufficient notice, visitors are occasionally welcomed to the facility.
In response to Senator Dennis Parrett, Dr. Smith said that the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AVUSI) is an excellent advocate for the industry in promoting environmental assets.
In response to Representative Tom Riner, Dr. Smith said that the small UAS systems do not fly high nor do they fly for long periods of time due to short battery life.
Community Farm Alliance
Martin Richards, Executive Director, Community Farm Alliance (CFA) introduced Ben Able, farmer and CFA Board President, and Will Bowling, farmer and CFA member.
Mr. Able explained that the establishment of a Kentucky food policy network would play a valuable role in farming, health, food and economic development. Mr. Able described himself as a small farmer running a produce farm consisting of 26 acres. Over the past four years, his farm had donated over 25 tons of produce to food banks in central Kentucky. The tax credit on the donation has been extremely helpful. House Bill 344 has provided help in allowing farmers to get paid below market-rate produce and was important this year. An indirect benefit of House Bill 391 is being able to sell to a wholesale processor who has purchased over 80,000 pounds of produce for the last three years. One area that needs strengthening is developing relationships with institutional buying partners to open markets to Kentucky farm families. CFA believes that the farm is the foundation for growth. Kentucky’s family farms and the civic and business institutions that support them can serve as a foundation for a new wave of economic prosperity.
Mr. Bowling, farmer and Community Farm Alliance member, explained that his family farm in Clay County raises direct market meats and vegetables. The farm services customers in Clay, Leslie, Perry, Laurel, and Knott counties, and several area restaurants and the Manchester Memorial Hospital. CFA is working with farmers in the eastern half of the state supporting the Farmers’ Market Support Program. is providing business development tools to new and beginning farmers, and direct support to the market by promotional activities. CFA is actively involved in Shaping our Appalachian Region (SOAR) by participating in the agriculture working group committee providing information that would allow agriculture to move to the next step in eastern Kentucky. Eight counties in eastern Kentucky have been included in the federal “Promise Zone,” meaning those eight counties take priority when applying for a federal grant. Kentucky Highlands Investment is the leading entity who has been charged with implementing the “Promise Zone Initiative” on the ground. Kentucky Highlands Investment is working with Martin Richards to lead the committee on developing a strategic plan for agriculture and local foods. Mr. Bowling said there is tremendous amount of excitement and opportunity being felt by the counties. Agriculture has the potential to play an enormous role in the economy. He encouraged the committee to remember that agriculture in eastern Kentucky is not going to look like agriculture across the rest of the state. The agriculture system needs to be approached with an open mind to reach out and find the opportunities available.
Mr. Richards explained that CFA has been working on local, regional, and nutritional food system development. Agriculture policy and the food system have a direct relationship to public health. CFA applied for a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agricultural Community Food project planning grant. CFA received the grant and the money has gone toward supporting a Kentucky food policy network. The USDA grant was a match with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky who provided the other half of the match. CFA will be applying for other grants in order to continue supporting the development of the network. CFA staff has been working at the community level with Letcher County schools to provide a summer feeding program. The Letcher County Farmers Market was the first market in the state and the second market in the country providing a summer feeding program. The USDA will continue funding CFA for the summer feeding program in order to expand the Farmers Market Support Program to five more markets in 2015 and five more in 2016. Mr. Richards said that CFA will be following up on legislation that required agencies to submit reports to the Legislative Research Commission. CFA will be reviewing previous legislation to determine if other issues needed to be addressed.
In response to Senator Paul Hornback, Mr. Bowling said the use of Master Settlement Agreement Funds has been high in Clay County. He stated that there are a lot of opportunities in eastern Kentucky.
In response to Representative Jim Glenn, Mr. Able stated that the difference with eastern Kentucky land versus western Kentucky land is the availability of level crop land. Eastern Kentucky, in the past, has had a hard time finding crops that will produce a livable wage on the farm. Market access is important in growing any type of produce or beef. When his family first started farming, they sold cow/calf beef that did not provide a livable income. Now they sell meat and raise vegetables to sell directly to the end of consumer. They have become farmers and marketers.
Farms to Food Banks Produce Purchase Update
Ms. Tamara Sandberg, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of Food Banks, explained that there are seven regional food banks that work with 950 local pantries, serving all 120 counties in Kentucky. The goal of the program is to increase access to healthy food among struggling families. There is still a great need for produce. The other goal is to help farmers by paying a fair price for their produce. Reducing the amount of wasted food is the third goal of the program, and it has helped to reduce wasting in the field. Ms. Sandberg asked Mr. Able to share his experience with the program.
Mr. Able, a producer from Oldham County, said he delivers to God’s Food Bank Pantry in Lexington and Dare to Care Food Bank in Louisville. He has increased tomato production but he encountered difficulties when some of the contracts fell through and he was left with tomatoes that needed to be sold. He worked with the Farms to Foods Bank program and was able to deliver a high quality product at a below market value, but it was still enough money to help with some of the costs.
Ms. Sandberg stated that for the first time ever, the 2014 General Assembly appropriated funds to be used for hunger relief efforts. In addition to the appropriated funds, the program also received $41,000 from the tax check-off program. The appropriation funds and the money from the tax check-off program go into the Farms to Foods Banks Trust Fund, which is administered by the Department of Agriculture. The Surplus Agricultural Commodities Advisory Committee of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture submitted a report of the Farms to Food Banks Trust Fund to the Governor and the Legislative Research Commission pursuant to KRS 247.984. More than 350 farmers from 60 counties received payment for surplus produce. About 2.9 million pounds of produce were distributed through the food bank network to hungry Kentuckians. She said that $100,000 was set aside for The Hunters for the Hungry Program. The remaining grant funds will be spent on cool season crops in May and June 2015. A final report will be submitted to KDA by August 2015. The last county to receive produce will be Robertson County, which does not have a local food pantry; God’s Pantry is sending a truckload of produce.
In response to Representative Jim Glenn, Ms. Sandberg said there are no local agencies in Robertson County that has the capacity to distribute fresh produce. Most of the 60 counties with producers are mostly in central Kentucky, but western Kentucky had a lot of producers this year.
In response to Senator Robin Webb, Ms. Sandberg said that the program had not received any venison from the Hunters for the Hungry yet, but is anticipating that will change in the next couple of weeks.
In response to Representative Derrick Graham, Ms. Sandberg said that producers are directed to contact a local food bank who would be able to accept fresh produce. If the local food bank was unable to accept the produce, then they would be directed to the next closest food bank.
In response to Representative Derrick Graham, Steve Kelly, Department of Agriculture (DOA) explained how the Hunters for the Hungry Program was included in the Farms to Food Banks program. The legal department deemed it was appropriate that the program be included. Hunters for the Hungry approached KDA about putting money in the program. The department is trying to help eliminate the over-population of deer and at the same time trying to find a use for the venison. The department is willing to work on changing the budget language to include Hunters for the Hungry.
Representative Jimmie Lee noted that two food banks in Kentucky received funds from Wal-Mart. He said that Feeding America Kentucky Heartland in Elizabethtown received $60,000 for the weekend “backpack” program. Ms. Sandberg said that three other food banks received money as well: Dare to Care Food Bank in Louisville, God’s Pantry Food Bank in Lexington, and Free Star Food Bank, which is located in Cincinnati but serves nine counties in northern Kentucky.
Locally Produced Foods Organization
Paula Hamm Stearns, Founder and Director of Locally Produced Foods Organization, Elizabethtown, explained that the organization is a non-profit with the goal of helping consumers connect to locally grown and whole foods and to eat healthier. The organization raises funds by listing, for a fee, on-line helpful information for producers and sellers (retailers and wholesalers) and restaurants of locally produced goods and products. The listing is for producers who sell on a larger scale than farmers markets, but there are links to the Kentucky Farmer’s Market through the Department of Agriculture and other state markets. Research shows that locally produced foods help communities. She said that 50 percent of the funds collected go to funding $500 competitive grants for expanding small farm producers and public school lunch programs.
Ms. Stearns stated that the on-line Website will ask sellers and restaurants to list their needs or desired produce or products. Producers can view the information and contact the seller or restaurant to negotiate a contract to fill the market need.
Ms. Stearns said the purpose of her presentation was to inform the committee of other options for promoting and helping the producer, seller, and restaurants to provide locally grown food and products. The goal is to get the word out through agricultural extension agents to help fill the supply and demand of produce and products.
In response to Senator Dennis Parrett, Ms. Stearns said that the definition of sellers, producers, and retailers needs to be clearer. The grants of $500 are derived from 50 percent of payments to list on the Website. Competitive grant applications are on-line.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.