“Big Four” agriculture programs receive big support from state

Source: LRC Press Office

FRANKFORT—Over $4.1 million in Kentucky agricultural development funds were recently approved for four programs that have earned the nickname “the Big Four” from state agricultural officials because of their statewide impact.

Kentucky Proud, the Kentucky Dairy Development Council, Kentucky Beef Network and the Kentucky Horticulture Council were approved for $1,657,750, $1,003,675, $909,500 and $617,500 respectively at the Dec. 2016 meeting of the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board (ADB), Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP) Deputy Executive Director Bill McCloskey told the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee today.

“Each one of these projects … are required to meet with a committee of board members three times to review their progress, to go over their program goals (at least for 2017),” said McCloskey, with each project serving thousands of Kentuckians. Kentucky Proud serves over 3,800 members, the Kentucky Horticulture Council serves over 8,000, and the Beef Network has over 38,000 cattlemen on its rolls, according to the GOAP’s Annual Report for 2016.

Over at the Kentucky Dairy Development Council, staff work with the state’s 612 dairy producers to ensure profitability and competitiveness, GOAP officials told the committee. The KDDC has been challenged to visit every dairy producer in Kentucky at least once this year alone, said McCloskey.

GOAP Executive Director Warren Beeler said KDDC has helped Kentucky’s dairies maintain production of about one billion pounds of milk even as the number of dairies across the Commonwealth has dropped from 2,200 to 612.

“Progress has been off the charts,” he told lawmakers.

Looking back at the history of the ADB, Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, praised the 2000 Kentucky General Assembly’s move to diversify Kentucky agriculture with half of the state’s share of a multi-billion-dollar 1998 national tobacco settlement. Legislation passed by the state in 2000 has funneled over $450 million into Kentucky agriculture through the state’s Agricultural Development Fund, according to the GOAP, and Webb said that fund needs protection.

“Protect this fund. It’s dwindling, it’s not going to be here forever but we’ve got to protect this fund because, especially in times of recession or budget crisis, everybody looks at our tobacco fund,” said Webb. “The way I look at this committee is to protect our mission.”

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, a freshman Senator who is new to the committee, said he would “like to put Sen. Webb’s concerns to rest” in regards to protection of tobacco settlement funds for Kentucky agriculture.

“I’m on board, and I certainly will do everything to protect the integrity of this fund and this program. Congratulations on the success you’ve had. People notice,” said Meredith.