Call to Order and Roll Call
The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, at 10:00 AM, in Murray, Kentucky. Representative Richard Heath, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Paul Hornback, Co-Chair; Representative Richard Heath, Co-Chair; Senators C.B. Embry Jr., Stan Humphries and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Matt Castlen, David Hale, Mark Hart, Kim King, Suzanne Miles, Phillip Pratt, Brandon Reed, Steven Rudy, Walker Thomas and James Tipton.
Guests: Jed Clark, President, Kentucky Soybean Association, Davie Stephens, Chairman, Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board, Ryan Quarles, Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Jed Clark welcomed members to his farming operation consisting mainly of soybeans, corn and dark-fired tobacco.
Effects of Dicamba Drift on Kentucky’s Soybean Industry
Davie Stephens, Chairman, Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board explained that in 1967 the Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of dicamba as an herbicide application. Throughout the years, the EPA reduced the volatility of dicamba and in 2016 the EPA once again reduced the volatility. Farmers in several states have filed complaints and/or lawsuits against the manufacturers seeking compensation for crop losses caused by dicamba. When being applied, dicamba has the tendency to move offsite therefore reducing crop yields with neighboring farmers.
Mr. Stephens said that DuPont, Monsanto, and BASF sell dicamba that is not in the generic form. The companies are governed by EPA protocol subject to good label protection, the GOP. GOP is the gold seal of testing that imposes stringent international standards for the product. Across the United States approximately 65,000 to 70,000 farmers and private applicators have been trained to use the product.
Mr. Stephens said the American Soybean Association (ASA) has been meeting with representatives from DuPont, Monsanto, and BASF discussing the complaints that have been filed by different states. The ASA and the United Soybean Board formed a task force to look at independent research from other states. Farmers need to know when and how to apply the products under certain weather conditions and other factors. Herbicides play a significant role in crop production so it is important to find out what went wrong and what can be changed to make the products on the market safer to use.
In response to Representative Rudy, Mr. Stephens said that he did not know the percentage of soybeans resistant to dicamba nor did he know what the crop loss would be. He was not aware of any products in the pipeline that could replace dicamba for fighting certain weeds.
In response to Senator Hornback, Mr. Stephens said that research was being done to see if the damage done to crops was due more to temperature inversions than the drifts. Although in other states, data is leaning towards both for being the cause of crop loss.
In response to Representative Pratt, Mr. Stephens said in Kentucky dicamba helps control palmer amaranth and in the northern states dicamba controls waterhemp. Farmers have been spraying dicamba in corn fields and pastures. Most farmers spray early on and do not spray during June and July because of the atmospheric chemistry. Spraying dicamba has probably been occurring in the summer months of June, July, and August without being diluted.
Chairman Heath stated that the label for dicamba has been approved for use through 2018. It is important to find a solution for using dicamba without causing crop loss. Mr. Stephens said he agreed that education for the farmers on the use and when and what time to spray dicamba would be a big help. Another option being considered would be to make dicamba a restricted chemical.
Mr. Clark stated that the main focus of the Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board (KSPB) is the exporting of Kentucky’s soybeans. The board has been working with Thailand to export soybeans to their country. Thailand uses one million bushels of soybeans and they have specifically requested soybeans from Kentucky. The problem is getting the beans to Thailand and still maintaining a competitive advantage. Mr. Clark said that the board is also looking to export soybean to Central America by rail/container ship.
In response to Senator Hornback, Mr. Clark agreed that NAFTA is still important to agriculture.
In response to Senator Humphries, Mr. Clark stated that his farming operation is 45 minutes away so he can truck his soybeans to the Mississippi River. Another goal of the KSPB is helping farmers in central Kentucky get their soybeans to the market for export.
Senator Humphries stated that maintaining the ports in Kentucky is important to farmers in order to be successful.
Update on Proposed NNN Levels on the Smokeless Tobacco Industry
Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA), stated that out of Kentucky’s $6 billion dollar cash receipts, western Kentucky contributes almost one-third. KDA has been getting strong production reports out of the western part of the state regarding early corn.
Commissioner Quarles stated that the proposed rule for NNN levels on smokeless tobacco is serious. He explained that the United States Food and Drug Administration issued a regulation that proposed an unrealistic and unachievable requirement to minimize the level of NNN for dark-fired tobacco. If this rule is not rolled back, it will create a direct negative reduction of farm cash receipts by $173 million, primarily affecting the western part of the state. Kentucky’s federal delegation has been active in protecting dark-fired tobacco producers. Commissioner Quarles said that the comment period concluded in July and now it is up to the FDA or the Health and Human Services Cabinet Secretary to reconsider the proposed rule.
Chairman Heath informed the members that Congressman Comer had filed an amendment pertaining to the FDA’s proposed NNN tobacco rule on HR 3354. The amendment would prohibit funds from being used to finalize, implement, administer or enforce the FDA’s proposed rule regarding the levels of NNN in smokeless tobacco. He said that HR 3354 is anticipated to be up for floor consideration by the full U.S. House of Representatives during the week of September 4th. If the FDA moves forward with the implementation of the rule, then the amendment would provide backup.
Representative Humphries stated that if the proposed rule were to pass, then it will put a lot of farmers out of business, especially in the western part of Kentucky.
Commissioner Quarles shared that there had been 14 complaints made to the KDA regarding dicamba compared to 900 complaints in Arkansas.
Discussion on Cottage Food Laws in Kentucky
Susan Zuccarell explained that she started baking and decorating cakes at an early age and found that she loved it. She and her husband built a new home in 2014 which included a special room off the kitchen for decorating cakes and cookies. The only thing not in the special room was an oven.
Once she was made aware of Kentucky’s Cottage Food Law restricting home bakers from selling products because they were not classified as farmers and did not grow the primary ingredients such as sugar, flour and eggs, she began the process of trying to have the law amended to include home bakers. She said that home bakers would also like to be considered for the Kentucky Proud logo and to advertise their baked goods for delivery in Kentucky.
In response to Representative King, Ms. Zuccarell said that the Health Department told her that in order to have a home bakery, she would have to have a separate room, involve plumbers for drawings and installation of three separate sinks (mop sink, grease trap, large sink) and employ an electrician to install the double-ovens. After the plans were finalized, they had to be submitted to the health department for approval and then submitted to Frankfort for approval. Farmers are allowed to sell their products at Farmers’ Markets.
In response to Representative Tipton, Ms. Zuccarell stated that she talked to people at the University of Kentucky who told her that she had to go through her local health department. Because of where her house is located, she cannot contact the local planning and zoning commission for a home based business permit.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.