Call to Order and Roll Call
The1st meeting of the Subcommittee on Rural Issues of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, at 10:00 AM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Mike Denham, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Stan Humphries, Co-Chair; Representative Mike Denham, Co-Chair; Senators C.B. Embry Jr., Chris Girdler, and Paul Hornback; Representatives David Hale, Richard Heath, Kim King, Tom McKee, Suzanne Miles, Terry Mills, Steven Rudy, Dean Schamore, and John Short.
Guests: Steve Coleman, Chair, Kentucky Farm Bureau Water Management Working Group, Dr. Janet Kurzynske, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky, Mandy Lambert, Commissioner, Department for Business Development, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development; and John Bevington, Deputy Commissioner, Department for Business Development, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.
Discussion on Kentucky’s Water Resources
Mr. Steve Coleman, Chair, Kentucky Farm Bureau Water Management Working Group, discussed Kentucky’s water resources. The Water Management Working Group is a 20 member task force assembled by the Kentucky Farm Bureau. The Group is charged to develop recommendations that will enhance the quality and quantity of water resources accessible for agricultural production in Kentucky and help alleviate demand pressure on municipal water supplies. The mission of the Water Management Working Group is to research the emerging issue of inadequate water supplies available for agricultural production, examine potential actions to solve deficiencies, and make recommendations for bringing new and reliable water sources to key areas in Kentucky that will benefit both agriculture and municipal water customers. Only two percent of Kentucky’s water resources are utilized for agricultural irrigation and four and seven tenths percent is used for livestock watering. Mr. Coleman stated Kentucky is one of a few states that does not have a groundwater monitoring system to track changes in the water table. The Water Management Working Group is working to create a better projection of future agricultural water needs, including a review of the current Drought Mitigation Plan. The Water Management Working Group is working to develop agricultural best management practices that improve water efficiency, promote soil health, and create additional water resources while utilizing modern technologies to increase efficiencies.
In response to Representative Denham, Mr. Coleman stated that current lakes and structures are being evaluated for potential expansion. Mr. Coleman stated funding is an issue when discussing new potential projects and land acquisition is difficult in order to build a new lake. Acquiring a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers is a long process.
In response to Senator Hornback, Mr. Coleman stated Kentucky is well positioned and the Water Management Working Group is tracking the passage of the Water of the United States which may influence some of the Group’s recommendations.
In response to Representative Denham, Mr. Coleman stated McKee is one lake built after the Clean Water Act of 1972.
Overview of the National Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center
Dr. Janet Kurzynske, Extension Professor, University of Kentucky, gave an overview of the National Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center. Dr. Kurzynske stated the Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center focuses on families with children who live in 324 persistently poor rural counties in 15 states. The Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center is a national center established at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Kurzynske stated the goal is to help families increase participation in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service Child Nutrition programs and other nutrition assistance programs. Dr. Kurzynske explained funded projects propose creative strategies to increase coordination among Food and Nutrition Service Child Nutrition programs and other nutrition assistance programs, including the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, among others.
Funds are used to coordinate child nutrition programs at the county level so officials can evaluate the core problems as to why programs are not being utilized. Lack of information and awareness of available nutrition programs play a role. In rural counties, some have difficulty accessing programs and a shortage of rural grocery stores that carry products that qualify for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and other programs are also factors to be considered. In schools, especially middle schools, children often do not like to use free and reduced lunch programs because a stigma is attached to use of the programs and students do not want to be viewed by their peers as living in poverty. This year, 50 applications were submitted to the National Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center, of which, six applications were from Kentucky. It is expected that an announcement will be made in the next month as to which applications will be funded.
In response to Representative Denham, Dr. Kurzynske explained there are two levels of support: free and reduced. If 51 percent of children in a school are at poverty then the school can apply for funding to be a universally free lunch program. The problem with this approach is that most school lunchrooms are self-sustaining so schools chose not use the universal free lunch program because of the United States Department of Agriculture’s reimbursements. It is not economically feasible. Dr. Kurzynske stated, in her opinion, the three things she would recommend to reduce persistent poverty in Kentucky would be jobs, jobs, and jobs. Dr. Kurzynske explained there are two types of poverty: generational and situational.
In response to Senator Humphries, Dr. Kurzynske stated these are community driven grants because each community has its own set of issues. The Food and Nutrition Service has its own set of criteria for designating which counties qualify for the programs. Staff will follow up to obtain the set of criteria and the methods used to designate 15 states and 324 counties as being eligible for the program.
Update on Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development Programs
Mandy Lambert, Commissioner, Department for Business Development, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and John Bevington, Deputy Commissioner, Department for Business Development, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development gave an update on Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development Programs. Ms. Lambert stated Kentucky’s jobless rate in September 2015 was 5 percent, the lowest since 2001 and that there were more than 350 new location and expansion projects in 2014. About 51 percent of economic development projects and 53 percent of newly announced capital investments will be locating in rural Kentucky. Rural counties benefited from 64 percent of manufacturing job growth over the past year.
Mr. Bevington explained the Build-Ready program accelerates the site selection process for companies. Six sites have been certified and six more are in process of being certified. Site criteria include: building pad ready, clear of environmental issues with studies complete, infrastructure extension plans in place, and design and concept available. Mr. Bevington stated 32 nations have invested in Kentucky during 2009-2014. 450 internationally owned facilities have located in the Commonwealth, employing 87,000 people. The Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) is a one-year company-sponsored training partnership that puts high school students, older students and military transitioning to civilian life on a fast track to jobs in manufacturing trades. KY FAME has 125 company members, 75 companies currently sponsoring students and 147 current students. KY FAME has 65 graduates thus far.
In response to Representative Denham, Ms. Lambert and Mr. Bevington said the Cabinet is not aware of national statistics as to where Kentucky sits in terms of available skilled workforce and that communities are not penalized for not being work ready.
In response to Representative Heath, Ms. Lambert stated she did not know the status of the population shift in Kentucky but that she would find out and follow up.
In response to Senator Humphries, Mr. Bevington said there are more resources available to assist rural counties and Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development staff can help customize incentives for rural counties.
In response to Representative Kim King, Ms. Lambert and Mr. Bevington explained programs such as KY FAME help to educate what job opportunities exist.
In response to Senator Embry, Ms. Lambert stated she was not sure why Jefferson and Fayette counties were not yet work ready certified but felt that it was just a matter of the counties having not yet gone through the process.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.