Call to Order and Roll Call
The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Wednesday, June 10, 2015, at<MeetTime> 10:00 AM, at the Harrison County Extension Office in Cynthiana. 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 C.B. Embry Jr., Chris Girdler, Dennis Parrett, Damon Thayer, Stephen West, and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Lynn Bechler, Mike Denham, Myron Dossett, Derrick Graham, David Hale, Richard Heath, James Kay, Kim King, Martha Jane King, Michael Meredith, Suzanne Miles, Terry Mills, David Osborne, Sannie Overly, Ryan Quarles, Tom Riner, Bart Rowland, Steven Rudy, Dean Schamore, John Short, Wilson Stone, James Tipton, and Tommy Turner.
Guests: Gary Carter, Harrison County Extension Agent; Dr. Gary Palmer, Assistant Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Kentucky of Agriculture, Food and Environment; Michelle Simon, Scott County Extension Agent, Kimberly Poe, Bourbon County Extension Agent and Clay Stamm, Nicholas County Extension Agent; Roger Thomas, Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, Harrison County Judge-Executive Alex Barnett, Cynthiana Mayor James Smith and Dr. Rick Bennett, Director of the Agriculture Experiment Station, University of Kentucky.
Dr. Gary Palmer, Gary Carter, Michelle Simon, Kimberly Poe and Clay Stamm discussed agricultural diversification that was made possible by tobacco settlement funds. Dr. Palmer stated that forage crops have vastly improved over the last year. Shared-use equipment has made a difference in getting the crops out and harvested. Mr. Carter said that Harrison County has been able to purchase no-till seeders, sprayers, scales, and vegetable equipment. In addition, he said that Harrison County funds have been able to provide a state-of-the art farmers market. The funds have also been used to build a storage building to house the equipment. He also said that a local family helps to maintain the equipment which is a huge plus.
Michelle Simon, Scott County Extension Agent, stated that funds have been used to build a value-added vegetable facility at the Triple J farm. Bi-Water Produce has expanded as well as Day Lilly Patches. The funds have also contributed to upgrading technology for farmers and the equine industries. She said that continued growth is expected in all areas.
Kim Poe, Bourbon County Extension Agent, said that the main uses of the tobacco funds had been for the equine, beef, and hay industry. She said it was important to offer assistance to farmers dealing with issues other than equine, beef and hay. Farmers are encouraged to use soil tests. Bourbon County had 200 applicants to apply for funds. At least 100 to 140 applicants were eligible. Bourbon County farmers have been involved in the Farm to Food Bank program and have a local food coordinator.
Clay Stamm, Nicholas County Extension Agent, explained that the funds have been used to construct a 4-H livestock barn which includes a meeting room that is used for indoor programs. There is also some money for dead farm animal removal. Cost-sharing has been important for fencing and forage crops. In 2014, there were 140 applications and 67 of those were approved.
In response to Senator Parrett, Mr. Carter said that only one individual had applied for timber funds. He said that the individual does a good job helping farmers by removing dead trees.
In response to Senator Hornback, Mr. Carter said that the effect on farmers has yet to been seen from discontinuing tobacco buyout payments. The farmers were able to put the payments toward good use. Most farmers only have a modest income and we will likely see some adverse effects.
In response to several questions regarding the recruitment of young farmers, Ms. Poe and Ms. Simon said that young farmers have been applying for funds.
In response to Representative McKee’s question, Ms. Simon said that there is no cash to buy farms. Most farmers rent or lease and the landowners should be encouraged to apply for Kentucky Agricultural Development Funds (KADF).
Kentucky Agricultural Development Funds
Roger Thomas, Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, said that KADF is provided in 118 counties. There are 1,080 volunteer members, 120 extension agents, 100 county program administrators, 16 Kentucky Agricultural Development Board members, and 12 Kentucky Agriculture Finance Corporation (KAFC) board members. He stated the opportunities available through the programs include low-interest loans, on-farm energy incentives, program grants, deceased farm animal removal, shared-use equipment program, County Agricultural Investment Program (CAIP) and the Governor’s Garden program. More than 5,100 projects have been approved totaling approximately $444 million.
Mr. Thomas explained that the County Agricultural Investment Program (CAIP) is to provide farmers with incentives to allow them to improve and diversify their current production practices. He said that $96 million in funds has been provided for CAIP.
Mr. Thomas stated that KADF projects are to provide access to state and county funds for statewide, regional and county projects that fit outside the established programs. Just to name a few recipients of KADF funds: 4-H and FFA programs have received $2.2 million, and funds totaling $2.9 million has been accessed by over 60 counties for Farmer’s Market Development. Mr. Thomas said that the largest recipient of funds has been the Kentucky Proud Program – over $17.1 million has been invested. The Kentucky Ag Finance Corporation provides low-interest access to capital for agricultural diversification and infrastructure projects. More than $49 million has been invested for agricultural infrastructure, beginning farmer, diversification through entrepreneurship in agribusiness, large animal veterinarian and agricultural processing. Mr. Thomas said it was interesting to note that the Purnell’s “Old Folks” sausage producer purchases most of the sows in Kentucky. He said $1.5 million had been invested in a $5 million project which included the purchase of additional refrigeration and meat processing equipment. KADF has invested $4 million in grants and $3 million in loans for the expansion of Siemer Milling in Hopkinsville. McDonald’s biscuits are made from the flour that Siemer Milling produces. Siemer Milling purchases its wheat from Kentucky farmers.
Mr. Thomas said that KADF works with the Kentucky Broadcasters Association for advertising as well as promotion of the Governor’s Garden. The Governor’s Garden seeks to educate the public about the health and economic benefits of gardening and utilizing locally grown foods. The Commonwealth Garden initiative is geared to those who would like to begin the process of having their own garden. As part of the Governor’s Garden Program, selected schools, organizations, parks and others are eligible to apply.
In closing, Mr. Thomas explained the Governor’s veto regarding certain parts of HB 510.
In response to Representative Tipton, Mr. Thomas said that county councils were beginning to put up some money for industrial hemp production and processing.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.