Call to Order and Roll Call
The6th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Paul Hornback, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Paul Hornback, Co-Chair; Senators C.B. Embry Jr., Chris Girdler, Stan Humphries, Dennis Parrett, Dorsey Ridley, Robin L. Webb, Stephen West, and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Lynn Bechler, Johnny Bell, Mike Denham, Myron Dossett, Kelly Flood, Derrick Graham, David Hale, Richard Heath, James Kay, Kim King, Martha Jane King, Michael Meredith, Terry Mills, David Osborne, Ryan Quarles, Dean Schamore, John Short, Rita Smart, Wilson Stone, James Tipton, and Tommy Turner.
Guests: Dave Maples, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Nikki Whitaker, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Laura Knoth, Kentucky Corn Growers Association, Ryan Bivens, Kentucky Soybean Association, Joe Clabes and Frank Penn, Kentucky Equine Education Project, Tamara Sandberg, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of Food Banks and Dr. Shubin Saha, Vegetable Specialist, University of Kentucky, Pat Clements, President, Small Grain Growers Association, Dr. Rick Bennett, University of Kentucky, Dr. Chad Lee, University of Kentucky and Philip McCoun, Kentucky Corn Promotion Council.
The October 2, 2015 minutes were approved, without objection, upon motion by Representative Wilson Stone and second by Senator Chris Girdler.
Reports from Subcommittee on Horse Farming and Subcommittee on Rural Issues
The reports of the Subcommittee on Horse Farming and the Subcommittee on Rural Issues were approved, without objection, upon motion made by Representative Mike Denham and seconded by Representative James Kay.
Legislative Issues for 2016 Session
Representative Ryan Quarles was introduced as the newly elected Commissioner of Agriculture. He said that in 2016 his office plans to continue the success of the Kentucky Proud Program with more consumer education. He said that international trade is important to Kentucky farmers and agri-businesses. The bourbon business is continuing to grow and he would like to see more Kentucky corn used in their products. Only 40 percent of the grain being used now is from Kentucky. He said that he would be looking to the Department of Agriculture for help in creating economic development in rural Kentucky. Representative Quarles stated that emphasis needed to be placed on urban agriculture – particularly in agriculture education. He said hunger was also a real issue in Kentucky and he looked forward to working with the food banks. Regulations will continue to be a dominant issue, especially water quality and access to water. It is important that Kentucky play a pro-active role in better managing water resources, he said.
Dave Maples, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association (KCA), introduced Nikki Whitaker, KCA’s membership and communications coordinator. Mr. Maples stated that animal health issues are always a concern. He said that in January 2017, farmers would be faced with a veterinarian fee directive. A lot of farmers go out-of-state to buy their animal health products to avoid paying taxes on the product, he said. It is an issue that needs to be watched in regards to federal mandates. Mr. Maples said that Dr. Robert Stout, Kentucky State Veterinarian, wants to create a task force with Farm Bureau, KDA and the Livestock Marketing Association to deal with bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) and other related issues. The Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association supports the creation of a Grains Center of Excellence at the Research and Education Center in Princeton. Another issue is the ability to move locally produced foods through processing plants. The University of Kentucky has a $250 million food contract and the Kentucky State Fair has a $150 million contract. It is important that someone look at the contracts and hold the folks who are overseeing the contracts accountable. It does not make sense to export all of Kentucky cattle out of state and then import food back. They need to be buying Kentucky products.
In response to Senator Hornback, Mr. Maples said the livestock industry had a good year although the prices are not where they were last year.
Representative Flood commented that she would commit to working with the new Commissioner of Agriculture to broaden the amount of Kentucky Proud products in food contracts such as UK and the Kentucky State Fair Board. She said she also agreed that UK needed to upgrade the facilities serving students of agriculture.
Representative Smart asked that extension specialists be added to the list for expanded or new facilities.
In response to Representative Stone, Mr. Maples said that Kentucky is in the process of rebuilding cow numbers.
Representative Kim King asked Nikki Whitaker to describe some of the youth leadership programs available to KCA’s youth members. Ms. Whitaker said that the average age of farmers was 63 years old. She said that KCA decided to focus their attention on the youth by hosting youth events across the state. The beef scholars program will include youth from across the state competing for scholarships.
In response to Representative Tipton, Mr. Maples said that the number of livestock entries for the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) was up in some areas and the other areas remained about the same.
Drew Graham, Assistant Dean, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, stated that the latest information regarding entries at the NAILE shows that dairy and beef cattle numbers might be slightly down but swine, sheep and goat entries are up.
Laura Knoth, Kentucky Corn Growers Association (KCGA), Philip McCoun, Kentucky Corn Promotion Council (KCGA), Pat Clements, President, Kentucky Small Grain Growers Association, Dr. Rick Bennett and Dr. Chad Lee, University of Kentucky, and Ryan Bivens, Kentucky Soybean Association, spoke in support for the establishment of a University of Kentucky Grain Center of Excellence at the Research and Education Center in Princeton. Mr. Clements stated that small grain growers has contributed over $200,000 annually to the University of Kentucky for grain research. Mr. Bivens stated that the Kentucky Soybean Board had invested over $250 million to the University of Kentucky for research projects pertaining to soybeans. Mr. Bivens and Mr. Clements stated that the contributions to UK would be continued for research. Rick Bennett, Associate Dean for Research and Director of the Kentucky Agriculture Experiment Station, University of Kentucky, said that he supports all things related to agriculture research and offered his support if needed. Dr. Chad Lee, University of Kentucky, Extension Agronomist said that he works with corn, soybean and wheat and other small grains as well and supports the updates to the Grains Center of Excellence.
In response to Senator Parrett, Mr. Bivens stated that check-off monies have been used for monitoring the threat of soybean rust. If soybean rust is found, then it is already too late to save the crop. Monies have been used for irrigation studies and a new ($300,000) combine was purchased for the Princeton Research Center. Mr. Bivens said that they were able to help with a cancer project at the University of Louisville.
In response to Representative Tipton, Ms. Knoth said that all three of the organizations at the state and national level support genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling at the federal level. If that happens, it needs to be standardized and the same label across the United States. It also needs to be very clear and capable of being regulated, she said.
Ms. Knoth stated that a task force had been put together to develop the Grains Center of Excellence. The purpose is to focus on research in order to feed the world, protect the environment, expand the economy and allow farmers to pass their farms on to the next generation. She said the challenges will be increasing grains and oilseeds production efficiently and explaining the environmental footprint, and learning how to reduce it. The task force would like to ensure that all of the research areas address questions relevant to Kentucky citizens and Kentucky agriculture.
Ms. Knoth pointed out that corn, soybean and wheat generate about $2 billion in Kentucky each year and contribute approximately $42 million to the Kentucky labor-income each year. She said that Kentucky livestock was the primary consumer of grains followed by food, fuel, bourbon and exports.
Ms. Knoth stated that the associations would like to see Agriculture Development Funds to be used for the renovation and expansion of the Grains Center for Excellence. She also noted that the task force is working on an endowment fund for annual maintenance.
Senator Hornback said this project is supported by all of agriculture in seeing that the Research Center is enhanced for the future of agriculture research. He said no general fund dollars would be used since the money for the upgrades to the Grains Center have already been set aside.
Joe Clabes, Executive Director, and Frank Penn, Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) addressed the committee. KEEP is a grassroots organization created to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s $4 million horse industry, which supports 100,000 jobs, either directly or indirectly. He said there are approximately 5,000 members who represent all equine, breeds and disciplines. Mr. Clabes stated that the board had unanimously approved a resolution in support of equine tax equity in Kentucky. The resolution urges the Governor and State Legislators to make it a top priority in supporting a sales tax exemption for equines, equivalent to the tax policy for other livestock and farm animals.
Mr. Frank Penn, Chairman, Equine Sales Tax Equity Task Force, said the sales tax equity for equine is all about fairness. He stated that there is a tremendous inequity in the equine industry. Horses are not treated as production animals or as part of production agriculture. The industry should not have to pay 6 percent sales tax on the inputs to raise a horse let alone the equipment that is purchased to operate a horse farm. Mr. Penn said that the industry would find a way to make the equine sales tax exemption a reality.
Senator Webb said that supporting the equine sales tax equity is important. The statutes need to be consistent in designating equine as livestock.
Representative Denham stated that in moving horses across state lines, there has been problems with health papers. He asked that KEEP work on reciprocity agreements with other states, especially Northern states. Mr. Clabes said that KEEP is aware of the issue and is working to find the best way to move equine across state lines via technology.
Update on Funding for Kentucky Association of Food Banks
Tamara Sandberg, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of Food Banks and Dr. Shubin Saha, Vegetable Specialist, University of Kentucky discussed the current funding for the Farms to Food Banks program. Ms. Sandberg stated that farmers were paid just below wholesale prices for their produce and the program provides them with a market to sell #2 grade produce. Produce has been delivered to all of Kentucky’s 120 counties. She said that approximately 300 farmers have benefitted from this past growing season. The average paid to a farmer was $1,400 and the maximum paid out to a farmer was $32,000. Ms. Sandberg stated that 2.4 million pounds of produce (equivalent to 4 million meals) has been distributed throughout the state.
Dr. Saha stated that the weather impacted the growth of crops for 2015. He said that the month of April received four times the amount of rain as normal which delayed getting the crops in the ground. He said that Kentucky also received over three times the normal amount of rain in July. The crops that were in the ground and doing well suffered from leaf wetness which affects plant management. Because of the above normal rain, farmers were prohibited from getting into the fields to harvest their produce which limited the amount of produce available to the food banks.
Ms. Sandberg explained there was still money available to purchase produce because of low production in the summer. The food banks should be able to provide produce through December. She said that the farms to food banks association had talked with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture about purchasing protein through egg farmers. Ms. Sandberg noted that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture was the largest contributor to the food bank, (budget appropriation) along with private foundations and individuals supporting the program through the income tax checkoff. In addition, she said that the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy contributed $33,000 from the tobacco growers settlement trust fund.
In response to Representative Martha Jane King, Ms. Sandberg said that a dollar donation can be turned into $10 worth of food because of the bulk purchasing power.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.