Agriculture

Bevin, Conway to Talk Farm Policy in Louisville

Jul 23, 2015

Kentucky's race for governor is taking off this week as the Democratic and Republican nominees are scheduled to debate farm policy in front of the state's agriculture leaders on Thursday.

Republican nominee Matt Bevin and Democratic nominee Jack Conway are scheduled to participate in a Measure the Candidates Forum sponsored by the Kentucky Farm Bureau. It will be the second time the two candidates have appeared together at a publicized event.

The forum is not open to the public but will be streamed on the Farm Bureau's website at http://kyfb.com/livestream.

Barbetorte, Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky farmers are planting more than 1,700 acres of hemp  as part of the second year of the state’s industrial hemp research program, with 256 of those acres in west Kentucky.

State Kentucky Industrial Hemp Coordinator Adam Watson said this year there are 1,742 acres approved for hemp, up from 33 acres last year. Watson said the significant increase in acreage was possible because of new processors coming to the table.

“A lot of processors have been eyeing hemp for a long time. But of course the federal status basically prevented anyone from being able to work with it. So it’s something that they’ve been on the sidelines for a while. And when Kentucky was able to give them a home and give them the ability to move forward with their work, they were very eager to work with us,” Watson said.

Watson said 9 western counties have acres approved for industrial hemp. He said hemp would fit well in western Kentucky’s large scale farming of agronomic crops, but wouldn’t replace staples like corn or soy any time soon.

Bill Clift of Caldwell County is planting 30 acres on his farm. Clift said he was interested growing hemp because of the possibility of getting in on the ground floor of a new and prosperous industry.

Kentucky Restrict Sale of Birds Amid Flu Outbreak

Jun 11, 2015

The state veterinarian has banned the sale of birds at flea markets and swap meets to protect Kentucky's poultry industry amid an avian flu outbreak.

The ban is just one of several restrictions state veterinarian Robert C. Stout announced Thursday. Private sales with direct farm-to-farm movement are still allowed. Other restrictions include only allowing birds to be sold in Kentucky if they come from a farm certified by the National Poultry Improvement Plan and limiting shows and fairs to in-state birds.

About 50 million birds have been infected with the avian flu in 21 states since December. Two birds have tested positive for the flu in Kentucky. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk to humans is low.

Kentucky's poultry industry earned about $1.2 billion in farm cash receipts in 2013.

Whitney Jones/WKMS

Around 120 Kentucky farmers will grow hemp this year as the state enters its second of five years of hemp research and testing as allowed under the Farm Bill.

Adam Watson is the industrial hemp program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. He says though growing hemp commercially isn’t legal yet, there’s growing interest in the crop.

“We’re still at the beginning stages of research,” he said. “Today we can’t sit and tell you this is the most economical way to produce it or this is the best crop to be growing it for like seed versus fiber but what we have learned is there is a wide interest from industry.”

Watson says the hemp can be sold to processors to make hemp seed oil or cake that can be used as food. He adds that like in all agricultural endeavors there is risk based on weather and the market, but he says the hemp is such a small percentage of the farmers’ production that there’s little risk involved.

“We’re still some years away from having a full blown industrial hemp industry,” Watson said. “It’s our hope and that of Commissioner Comer that with the completion of the Farm Bill five year program we’ll see an allowance at the federal level that will allow it to be legal.”

Watson says 326 farmers applied to grow the crop, and he is still working to finalize the farmers that will be allowed to do so.

Kentucky's hemp production is taking deeper root as pilot projects expand in the second year of testing its potential.

Adam Watson, the state Agriculture Department's hemp program coordinator, says spring planting season is expected to include at least several hundred acres of hemp. Statewide hemp plantings totaled about three dozen acres last year.

He says more than 100 farmers and processors --mostly growers -- are expected to participate in the next round of pilot projects.

Last year's tiny production turned into the state's first legal hemp crop in generations. Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana.

Hemp got a limited reprieve with the federal farm bill, which allows hemp research projects in states such as Kentucky.

Kevin Willis

WKU is enhancing its commitment to offer fresh, locally-sourced food products at its campus dining facilities.

The school announced Monday that it had been named Kentucky’s tenth member of  the Farm to Campus program. The state Department of Agriculture will assist WKU in locating and procuring products sold under the Kentucky Proud label.

Edmonson County farmer Alan Davis says the effort will allow him to expand sales of his hydroponic lettuces and salad greens to the university.

“We think it will let us increase our new production and hire a few more employees. We’re really excited about having a place to bring our fresh produce to.”

WKU Sustainability Coordinator Christian Ryan says an increasing number of students are interested in having more local, sustainably-grown food choices on campus.

“Each year, I have more and more students make their way to me and say they want to see more local food here. And even more importantly, they want to know what they can do to help get local food on campus, and I love that.”

The Kentucky state Senate is poised to pass a bill that would restore funds to several programs associated with the 1998 tobacco settlement.

Revenue from the tobacco settlement has flagged as fewer people have bought cigarettes in the state, leading to shortfalls in programs dealing with agriculture, early childhood, cancer research and programs that help people quit smoking.

“It’s what our revenue’s based on and as that goes down, the divisions to each one of those agencies goes down also,” said Sen. Paul Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville who sponsored the bill.

The extra money comes from a new settlement the state made with tobacco companies in 2014. Under the agreement, the state received an additional $110 million in fiscal year 2014 and over the next three years will receive $57.2 million more than the state had budgeted to receive from the tobacco settlement.

The bill also ensures that the money from the settlement can only be appropriated by the legislature. Last year Gov. Steve Beshear used the money to restore $42.5 million in budget cuts to lung cancer research, agriculture and other health assistance.

Several Senate Republicans suggested that Beshear’s use of the funds was a breach of power and that budget appropriations should be left to the legislature.

Eater has this look at a number of wineries in the WKU Public Radio listening area, including some in Cumberland, Pulaski, and Wayne counties.

Lawmakers in Kentucky and Indiana want to add “farming” to the list of pursuits their citizens have a right to enjoy.  However, environmental advocates say the measures impede the ability of state regulators to protect the states from environmental damage from farms.

Both Kentucky and Indiana already have “Right to Farm” statutes. Among other things, these laws prevent farmers from being sued by neighbors for nuisance odors. The new legislation would take things a step further.

“What this constitutional provision would do would enshrine it and elevate that right to a protected right that’s on par with our right to vote, freedom of religion," argues Kim Ferraro, an attorney with the Hoosier Environmental Council.

Ferraro says by giving farming those protections, it’ll make it very difficult to impose any regulations on agriculture in the future.

If the legislation passes in either Indiana or Kentucky, it will be on the ballot for voter approval in 2016.

On a breezy morning next to a cornfield in rural Weld County, Colo., Jimmy Underhill quickly assembles a black and orange drone with four spinning rotors.

"This one just flies itself," he says. "It's fully autonomous."

Underhill is a drone technician with Agribotix, a Colorado-based drone startup that sees farmers as its most promising market. Today he's training his fellow employees how to work the machine in the field.

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