Call to Order and Roll Call
The5th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Friday, October 2, 2015, at 10:00 AM, at the University of Kentucky, Agricultural Science Center North, Seay Auditorium, Lexington, 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 C.B. Embry Jr., Chris Girdler, Stan Humphries, Dennis Parrett, Damon Thayer, Robin L. Webb, Stephen West, and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Lynn Bechler, Richard Heath, James Kay, Kim King, Martha Jane King, Michael Meredith, Suzanne Miles, Terry Mills, Ryan Quarles, Tom Riner, Bart Rowland, John Short, Rita Smart, Wilson Stone, James Tipton, and Tommy Turner.
Guests: Senator Jimmy Higdon, Drew Graham, Assistant Dean, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Dr. Nancy Cox, Dean, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Dr. Eli Capilouto, President, University of Kentucky, Dr. Rick Bennett, Associate Dean for Research and Director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Dr. Sue Nokes, Chair, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, University of Kentucky and Dr. David Williams, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky.
The September 9, 2015 minutes were approved by voice vote, without objection, upon motion by Representative Martha Jane King and second by Representative Rita Smart.
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Drew Graham, Assistant Dean, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, said this is the 12th year that UK has hosted the Agriculture Committee at Round Up. The College of Agriculture has evolved from traditional agriculture and the UK College of Agriculture to UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Mr. Graham recognized Senator Dennis Parrett as being selected the “Friend of Extension.” This is the highest award given to extension.
Dr. Nancy Cox, Dean, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, thanked members for their support of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and agriculture throughout the state. The University of Kentucky is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and one of the first departments was Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. There are approximately 2,600 students participating in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. She said animal science has more than 350 students, equine, 320 students, agriculture economy, 250 students, and human nutrition has over 230 students. Dr. Cox said that the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment has a new strategic plan called “Building our Future on the Land Grant Legacy” based on increasing student quality, support for faculty and staff, building a stronger relationship with the General Assembly and service orientation to the state. The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is the second college at UK in terms of external grants, having received $36 million in awards in 2014.
In response to Representative McKee, Dr. Cox said the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is reaching its physical facility capacity, especially with the growth of the animal programs. There is room for growth but the College has to be mindful of the lack of facilities. If larger classrooms were available, the equine and animal science majors would have more than 150 students in each class.
In response to Representative Tipton, Dr. Cox said there are classroom constraints to increasing the student body. The College of Agriculture is seeking public/partnerships to help with funding. UK has a partnership with Caltech for the poultry unit and is in discussion with a partnership for a new dairy milking parlor.
Dr. Eli Capilouto, President, University of Kentucky, said that, for the second straight year, UK’s freshman class has over 5,000 students, and approximately 110 are merit scholars, which ranks UK in the top ten of all the national public research universities.
It is a priority to graduate students and hold the university accountable. The retention rate is 83 percent for first year students. The five year graduation rate increased approximately 3 percent, and the six year graduation rate--highest ever for UK--is 61.3 percent. Dr. Capilouto said there is $1.8 billion of construction being undertaken on campus. UK philanthropy and public/private partnerships have been important to the costs of construction. The engineering program has a high number of transfers. The new space for the Engineering Department has brought about several changes in the design of the curriculum. There is one standard curriculum the first year, and students will immediately start applying their knowledge in the Engineering program. In closing, Dr. Capilouto stated that the University is not just the University “of” Kentucky, but rather is the University “for” Kentucky.
Senator Hornback thanked Dr. Capilouto for his commitment to Kentucky and Kentucky agriculture in bringing status to the University of Kentucky and the high rankings and high graduation rates.
In response to Representative Stone, Dr. Capilouto said that a partner was chosen for dining services at the University of Kentucky. That partner and UK settled on a $250 million arrangement over 15 years and involves $70 million in capital. There is a $30 million dining facility (termed “The 90”). The partner is supposed to provide $15 million toward the renovation of Patterson Hall. Dr. Capilouto said that he was not sure if that included a dining facility. The partner is providing $5 million to Food Connection so UK can partner with and expand local purchases such as Kentucky Proud products. He explained that the six meal plans decreased in price. There is a dining facility that went down by $600. The 90 has an all-you-can eat meal plan for $6.00. The other commitment that the partner had was to expand local purchases. UK’s commitment is for Kentucky Proud and local products to be 25 percent of all food purchases. UK and its partner are deeply committed to local foods.
UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Programs
Dr. Rick Bennett, Associate Dean for Research and Director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment State, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, updated members on the Grain Center of Excellence project in Princeton. The proposal includes an expansion of the facilities at the Education Center in Princeton, with an upgrade to the main building and greenhouses, and an expanded irrigation system, all with the intent to develop greater facilities to increase research and technician positions and enhance the program on grain crops. The expansion of the grain crops center enhances all of the research and extension activities, such as livestock, tobacco, and horticulture. One issue important to the expansion of the facilities is land. The University of Kentucky leases 60 acres from a family farm in Princeton. UK reached out to the family to purchase the 60 acres and an additional 240 adjoining acres and is waiting for a response.
In response to Senator Webb, Dr. Bennett said that all the programs are important, and that purchasing the additional acres would be a better opportunity for livestock research. UK does not have a “Plan B” if the land purchase does not happen but is fairly confident that it can work toward an agreement.
Senator Hornback stated that the facility has always been called the Grain Center, which has always had an impact on livestock and forage research.
In response to Representative Smart, Dr. Bennett said UK will be addressing the issue regarding consumer sciences. The university is still in the process of defining programs for the expansion at the Research and Education Center at Princeton.
In response to Senator Humphries, Dr. Bennett said that the design of the facility includes new classrooms and auditorium.
Dr. Sue Nokes, Chair, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, and Dr. Mike Sama, Assistant Professor, Machine Systems Automation Engineering, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, University of Kentucky, discussed drones and precision agriculture. Dr. Sama stated the department had recently received a grant examining weather related data and the operation of drones in the low atmosphere. Data will assist in the prediction of weather and its relationship to farming. The biggest topics in precision agriculture are drones and big data. The big data project will include the collection of information from vehicles such as tractors and farm implements, and will help with building models to improve how grain is harvested, processed, and stored. Dr. Sama stated that a person can purchase a drone from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
In response to Senator Hornback, Dr. Sama said that the department is trying to develop laser sensors to go on the bigger drones. Sensors would help to develop a resolution topography map and maps to look at drainage. The smaller drones are good for remote sensing. Users can put a simple camera on the drone and take pictures or videos while flying over fields. Using infrared is another way to measure differences in crops. It could be used to measure nitrogen levels and other materials.
Senator Hornback stated that using drones helps the environment, clean waters, efficiency, and conservation.
In response to Representative McKee, Dr. Sama stated that there will be some progressive producers who will buy their own drones. In the future, more customer operators will most likely be needed to read the massive amounts of data collected by drones. Drones are collecting data now, but it is happening on a limited pace because of federal regulations.
In response to Senator Westerfield, Dr. Sama said that the university is building several different sensors. All the pieces are there, but they do not work together very well, and limited data packages are available. The university has exemptions to operate drones. At this time, there is no such thing as commercial drone operation in the U.S. without an exemption. The university must apply for an authorization to operate drones. UK is working to get local exemptions for farm research and statewide exemptions for training.
In response to Representative Bechler, Dr. Sama said UK has been working with several commercial drone pilots who are veterans. UK is already working to train pilots. The FAA is drafting rules for operator applications.
Senator Parrett predicted that future agriculture retailers will have a drone service. Mr. Sama stated that there will probably be changes in flying drones for safety concerns.
Senator Webb encouraged the department to contact legislators regarding proposals.
Dr. David Williams, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, said efforts in hemp research for 2015 have been generally successful. There were two old-fashioned hemp standard variety trials that were very successful. One trial was a grain variety which averaged around 1,000 pounds per acre, which for corn growers would equate to 165 bushels of corn. UK partnered with Western Kentucky University (WKU) to evaluate the tolerance of industrial hemp to several common agricultural herbicides. There are no herbicides available for hemp but by continuing with the trials there will be a breakthrough. A dual-purpose trial where the crop is grown primarily for the grain and subsequently harvested for fiber production. Yields were at or about 1,000 pounds per acre. UK also has a large natural fiber trial funded by the Sundstrand Corporation. The trial includes three different varieties of industrial hemp and one variety of kenaf. Future trials will include a variety of flax. This trial’s goal was to identify which of the species produced the highest quality natural fibers. The trial was the least successful. Other research work includes row spacing, planting depth, and manipulating plant growth with plant growth regulators. Additional research includes gene identification associated with the oil quality pressed from hemp seed. Dr. Williams has met with Dr. Nokes about the potential of grant support for industrial hemp relative to building materials. It is highly likely, in 2016, that UK will begin some level of work in organic hemp production.
In response to Senator Hornback, Dr. Williams said that a seed shipment to UK was held up due to inadequate paperwork. The holdup had nothing to do with the hemp seeds. There will be some in-state hemp seeds available for 2016.
Representative McKee said one of the biggest issues in growing hemp is that there is nothing to help with weed control. Dr. Williams said Canada uses Assure II for grass control in industrial hemp production. There is still on-going research for weed control. Planting depth is key to successful establishment of hemp. When planting is done correctly, weed control has been successful. There will likely be some form of weed control in 2016.
In response to Representative Tipton, Dr. Williams said projections for next year should come from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA). Dr. Williams said he receives countless inquiries about industrial hemp from in and outside the state.
Senator Hornback stated the Kentucky Department of Agriculture did a great job of placing a producer with a processor.
Dr. Williams said that the National Hemp Association held its national meeting in Lexington. There is no doubt that Kentucky is in a good position due to the efforts of KDA.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.