Agriculture

Jeanna Glisson

Jeanna Glisson has two lives: her life before August 20th, 2007, and her life after. That day is so vivid, Glisson can still hear the sounds of her son’s feet coming down the stairs.

“I remember Derek when he got up that morning, he was on the phone talking to my dad. He was excited,” Glisson said.

It was the first day of harvest at Swift Farms in Murray, Kentucky, and Derek couldn’t wait to get to the corn fields. Glisson remembers it feeling like the hottest day of the year. It was a Monday, she said.

“He looked forward to it. I remember him getting in the shower. And then after that...” Her voice trails off. She remembers that the phone rang. It was her brother. Derek had been hurt. Before Glisson or any of the emergency responders could get to the farm, it was too late.

The livelihoods of farmers and ranchers are intimately tied to weather and the environment. But they may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.

The University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy is planting more hemp this year at the school’s Belknap Campus.

This is officially the center’s second hemp crop — the first was planted last August and yielded a few dozen pounds of plants. This year, there will be two different varieties of hemp growing, as well as kenaf. Kenaf is an African plant used for fiber and oils.

“Having the crops grow on campus actually raises awareness about the research that we have going on at Conn Center,” said assistant director Andrew Marsh.

Kentucky Association of Food Banks

The Kentucky Farms to Food Banks program is adding a new source of protein to help families in need get balanced nutrition. 

Tamara Sandberg is executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. She says there have been requests from food banks to increase healthy proteins.

“For the first time in addition to the fresh fruits and vegetables, we’re reaching out to egg producers in Kentucky that might have extras that they are not able to sell otherwise, that they’re willing to provide to us to give to food banks.”

The program is in the process of setting a fair price that helps producers offset the cost of providing eggs to food banks.

Wikimedia Commons

Farmers in the Ohio Valley are waiting to see how President Trump’s choice to lead the Agriculture Department might affect their fortunes. Concerns over trade have held up a confirmation vote for nominee Sonny Perdue, and trade is also on the minds of regional growers.

Farmers here have been big winners under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and while farm country voted overwhelmingly for Trump, his talk about scrapping NAFTA has farmers like Jed Clark nervous.

Clark and his father farm 5,000 acres in western Kentucky’s Graves County, where they grow corn, wheat, soybeans and tobacco. Right now, Clark is thinking mostly about corn. Yellow corn is used mostly to feed livestock and the white corn is for human consumption. One of every four rows of it will go to Mexico.

Owensboro Regional Farmers Market

As farmers across Kentucky gear up for growing season, the Farms to Food Banks program is already getting calls from some who are interested in selling a portion of this year’s produce to help families in need.

The statewide project buys not-quite-perfect or extra produce and distributes it to more than 500 organizations. Those groups pass the food along to families in their region. 

Last year 385 farmers in 67 Kentucky counties participated in the effort.

Sally Nash of Daviess County said she sells mainly at the Owensboro Regional Farmers Market.

Stopping Superbugs: A New Farm Rule Targets Antibiotic Resistance

Jan 23, 2017
Nicole Erwin

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control offers a stark example of the declining power of medicine’s most important weapons against infectious disease. The CDC noted that a patient who died at a Nevada hospital last year had an infection that was resistant to 26 different antibiotic treatments. That’s essentially the entire antibiotic arsenal doctors had.

There’s an antibiotic problem in the U.S. Some just aren’t working anymore as resistant bacteria, so-called “superbugs,” are growing. Part of the problem lies with farms, where massive amounts of antibiotics have been used on livestock, including animals that aren’t even sick.


Creative Commons

A level one drought issued for Kentucky last month has been lifted due to the recent rainfall. Drought and high winds contributed to wildfires in eastern Kentucky that burned about 50,000 acres.

The state Division of Forestry expects the timely precipitation and cooler temperatures will significantly reduce the risk of wildfires. Farmers are still expected to feel the effects of the drought for months to come.

Flickr/Creative Commons

University of Kentucky agricultural economists say the state's net farm income could drop to its lowest level since 2010.

They're pointing to sharply lower cattle prices along with large grain stockpiles and the lowest tobacco receipts of the post-tobacco buyout era as factors behind the decline in farm income. On the positive side, they say poultry receipts are back on track.

UK ag economist Will Snell said Thursday that Kentucky's net farm income — the amount left after expenses — is expected to drop below $1.5 billion in 2016, down from $1.7 billion in 2015. It's well off the peak of nearly $3 billion in 2013.

Agricultural cash receipts in 2016 are projected to drop 7 percent to $5.4 billion, down from a record high of $6.5 billion in 2014.

Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

Mount St. Joseph in Daviess County, Kentucky, may appear calm with the Green River flowing past  homes that dot the farmland here. But there is trouble in the air and it comes along with the smell of a large hog farm.

Sixty-three year old Jerry O’Bryan was born and raised on a farm in Daviess County. By the time he was 22 he had lost both parents and was left 150 acres to support his family.

“Back when I started there was two things that a young man with very little money could do to get started in agriculture, one of them was tobacco and the other one was hogs,” explained O’Bryan.

Now he produces more than 200,000 market hogs a year. Recently, he built a hog truck wash, Piggy Express LLC., to sanitize five semi trucks used a day to transport hogs to market. The facility upset local residents. They’ve formed  a group called CAPPAD, or Community Against Pig Pollution and Disease. Don Peters, a retired engineer, is a member.

Whitney Jones/WKMS

Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner is predicting 2017 will be the biggest year yet for the state’s hemp program.

The commonwealth is now accepting applications for those who want to take part in the pilot research project next year.

Ryan Quarles wants to build on the increasing amount of hemp that’s been planted since the program began in 2014.

“In the first year, about 30 acres were planted. In the second year, about 900. This year, over 2,000. And we fully expect there to be substantial growth in 2017,” Quarles said.

More information on Kentucky's program, including the 2017 policy guide and a downloadable application, can be found here.

Kentucky is running its program under a federal law that allows industrial hemp pilot projects.

Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

It’s harvest time and a semi full of corn just pulled onto the scales at Seven Springs Farm in Cadiz, Kentucky. On the scale, the analytics work begins: moisture content, weight, production rates, and more are all recorded.

This is just one truck and many more will follow with much more to be stored and later sold for ethanol production. Just one of the farm’s bins can hold as many as 350,000 bushels, or 16.8 million pounds.

These trucks of corn are just one bite of a mouthful of big data that this local farm’s server can no longer swallow. As the farm’s production and technology manager, it’s Nick Woodruff’s job to keep track of it all.

“The way things communicate now and interact has changed a lot in the last couple years, Woodruff said.

So has the size of the farm: what started at just 2000 acres covers 36,000 today. When the farm was smaller and “clouds” still just meant white puffy things in the sky, farm data were stored on site. Now, everything is transmitted to a cloud server owned by John Deere, the tractor company.

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Kentucky's Agriculture Commissioner is asking the federal government to reconsider its latest set of rules regarding industrial hemp.

Last month, Ryan Quarles said he would be reviewing the U.S, Department of Agriculture's 'Statement of Principles' to see how it relates to Kentucky's own pilot hemp research program.

A provision in the 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to grow hemp for research purposes, but did not remove the cannabis-related plant from the controlled substances list, giving federal agencies authority over restrictions.  

In a letter sent yesterday to the USDA, Quarles says he now has several objections in that several aspects of the principles contradict Congress' original intent and "could hinder industrial hemp's economic potential" in Kentucky.

Quarles says the new rules name the only economically viable parts of the hemp plant as the "fiber and seed" to only be used for industrial applications. Quarles says that over half of Kentucky's hemp acreage harvests cannabidiol - a hemp oil that does not come from either the fiber nor seed, and that the 'industrial application' proviso would also mean hemp could not be used in a drug, as a food ingredient or for artistic purposes.

Nicole Erwin, WKMS

A federal opinion on industrial hemp research programs may provide new opportunities in Kentucky.  

The report, called a Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp, released by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration holds no actual legal standing but does attempt to offer some clarity on how Federal laws will be applied to hemp research production.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is reviewing the opinion to determine how significant an impact the notice could have on the industry.

In the meantime, Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles said some progress is clear, like the USDA allowing Organic Certification of the crop and access to specialty crop grant funding.

“There are some areas that may be problematic, including the definition of what the actual definition of what industrial hemp is,” said Quarles.

According to the Commissioner, 60 percent of the state’s hemp programs are invested in hemp oil production, or CBD. After the first reading of the statement, the KDA is unclear how the federal organizations view this area of research.

Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

On 120 acres in Marion, Kentucky, small-scale farmer Joseph Mast is taking an innovative approach to provide for his growing family of nine.

Mast belongs to an Amish community and is reluctant when it comes to media. He makes a concession, however, when the conversation involves sustainable farming.

“I’ll talk grass any day,” said Mast.

Mast is a grass farmer using something called high intensity grazing, also known as rotational grazing. Herds of animals are left to graze on a small area of pasture, but moved several times a day to new forage, mimicking the way grasslands and grazers naturally interacted long ago.

Rotational grazing conflicts with conventional thinking on livestock and overgrazing. The theory has always been that too many animals on a plot will trample and destroy fertile grounds. But Mast sees evidence that the practice is working and he believes that his small farm is becoming a part of much larger solution for sustainable agriculture.

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