Agriculture

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.

Flickr/Creative Commons

A new farmers market slated to open this spring in downtown Bowling Green hopes to attract customers who don’t normally visit such establishments.

The new market—which will be known as Southern Kentucky Fresh--will be located near the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center on College Street.

Megan Bailey, with the Warren County Extension Office, says the location is within walking distance of many residents who might not otherwise have access to fresh, locally-grown produce.

“That was one of the purposes of this downtown market—to be able to serve an audience that may not have been able to go to the farmers market before. It’s going to be closer to some of our communities that are using SNAP benefits, and they’ll actually be able to utilize those at the market.”

Credit Katie Brady / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has found about half of ground chicken is contaminated with salmonella, and the agency is proposing new standards to reduce the bacteria by 30 percent.

The new rule would mean more testing, which John-Mark Hack says is more expense for the processor. He is a co-founder at Marksbury Farm Market in Garrard County.

“As a company that employs 36 Kentuckians, any additional expense is significant to us,” Hack said. “We’re not a mulit-million dollar, multi-national poultry processor that can easily absorb those kind of expenses.”

The USDA increased standards for whole chickens in 1996, but now knows the chance of salmonella increases as chicken is processed. The further processed meat like chicken wings and breasts make up 80 percent of the chicken available for purchase.

You're in the supermarket gathering ingredients for eggnog and a Christmas Bundt cake, and you're staring at a wall of egg cartons. They're plastered with terms that all sound pretty wonderful: All-Natural, Cage-Free, Free-Range, Farm Fresh, Organic, No Hormones, Omega-3. And so on.

And yet the longer you stare at them, the more confused you become. You are tired and hungry, so you just grab the cheapest one — or the one with the most adorable chicken illustration — and head for the checkout line.

Comer Takes Aim at Economic Development Efforts

Dec 5, 2014

Republican James Comer says he wants to eliminate state economic development incentives for companies that fail to pay livable wages.

The GOP candidate for governor said Thursday that Kentucky's Economic Development Cabinet has made "questionable deals" that included awarding tax incentives. Comer didn't define a livable wage but said it's higher than the minimum wage.

He said the Economic Development Cabinet would draw close scrutiny if he becomes governor.

Comer, the state agriculture commissioner, made the remarks to reporters after speaking to the Kentucky Farm Bureau's annual meeting.

Comer said he plans to talk about ways to reduce poverty in Kentucky. He said he wants to attract investment into areas in dire need of more jobs. He said one way to do that is to make Kentucky a right-to-work state.

Farm Cash Receipts Projected At Record $6 Billion in 2014

Dec 4, 2014
Lisa Autry

University of Kentucky agricultural economists are predicting the state's farm sector will produce a record $6 billion in cash receipts in 2014.

But they are forecasting a five percent drop in next year's ag cash receipts due to the end of tobacco buyout payments and lower grain prices.

University of Kentucky agriculture economist Will Snell says Kentucky's diverse farm economy has it positioned better than much of the country. Kentucky's projected total is up five percent over 2013, while U.S. farm cash receipts are expected to drop by one percent in 2014.

Snell says strong increases in beef, poultry, dairy and hog prices are boosting this year's cash receipts.

The forecasts by Snell have become a fixture at the Kentucky Farm Bureau's meeting, which was happening Thursday in Louisville.

U.S. farmers are bringing in what's expected to be a record-breaking harvest for both corn and soybeans. But for many farmers, that may be too much of a good thing.

Farmers will haul in 4 billion bushels of soybeans and 14.5 billion bushels of corn, according to USDA estimates. The problem? Demand can't keep up with that monster harvest. Corn and soybean prices have been falling for months. A bushel of corn is now worth under $4 — about half what it was two years ago.

If you cover food and farming, as we do, you end up looking at farm magazines and agricultural web sites. This means you see lots of articles about corn prices and ads for farm equipment.

Then, a couple of years ago, Modern Farmer appeared. It's a farm magazine like no other. It flaunts a look and attitude that sometimes make us laugh out loud.

If you're reading The Salt, it probably comes as no surprise to you that consumers increasingly want to make food choices based on not just their health, but their ethics. A growing number of groups are coming up with technological solutions to help them.

As I scrolled through tweets about a panel on agricultural entrepreneurs at the SXSW Eco conference earlier this month, one caught my eye. The sender was Vance Crowe, Monsanto's director of millennial engagement.

Corporate America is currently caught up in a torrid infatuation with millennials, who befuddle and torment the companies who want their dollars.

You can see them every Friday morning working away at their garden at WKU's farm and on Saturdays selling what they've raised at Bowling Green's Community Farmers' Market.

They're the Top Crops crew and, week after week, under the guidance of Bill and Carol Greer, this group of special needs adults continues to stretch the boundaries of just what farming can do.

WKU Public Radio's Joe Corcoran paid a visit to a Bowling Green farmers market to learn more about the impact of the Top Crops program.

Cumberland County leaders could decide this week whether to change the county’s poultry production ordinance at the request of a company.

Cagle’s Keystone Foods of Albany has asked the Cumberland County Fiscal Court to make a number of changes, including allowing producers to have four chicken houses on their property as opposed to two, and decreasing the minimum distance between a chicken house and another dwelling from 2,500 feet to 1,500 feet.

Another change would increase the amount of birds allowed in a chicken house from 23,000 to 25,000.

Some Cumberland County residents have spoken out against the changes at public meetings, and want the issue put on the ballot so that voters can decide.

An agriculture committee appointed by Cumberland County Judge-Executive John Phelps is to deliver its recommendation at a meeting Monday evening, with a possible Fiscal Court vote coming at a meeting Tuesday.

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes traded familiar barbs Wednesday while discussing agricultural issues at the Kentucky Farm Bureau headquarters in Louisville.

The 90-minute forum offered voters one of the few opportunities to contrast the two candidates in person, and covered a wide range of topics from the farm bill, immigration reform, and Affordable Care Act.

A new report claims Senator Mitch McConnell has a trend of skipping out on Senate Agriculture Committee hearings for events unrelated to his home state.

Lisa Autry

Commissioner James Comer says many of the reforms he brought to the Kentucky Agriculture Department are needed across state government.  The gubernatorial candidate was in Bowling Green Friday speaking to the group Leadership Kentucky. 

Since taking the reins in 2012, Comer talked about how the Agriculture Department has become more accountable, transparent, and efficient which he said will be talking points on the campaign trail.

"The next governor will have to make some tough decisions.  The next governor will have to pay for this Medicaid expansion and find a way to infuse money into this pension system that threatens to bankrupt the state," explained Comer.  "We're going to go back to the Department of Agriculture on how we've saved money and shrunk the size of our government agency while doing more for the taxpayers because that's what we're going to have to do in all of state government in the future."

After the speech, Comer declined to comment on rumblings that he has picked State Senator Chris McDaniel as his running mate. 

"I'll say this about State Senator Chris McDaniel.  I'm a big fan of his.  He's had huge success in the private sector with a business he started," added Comer.  "In my opinion, he's proven himself to be one of the smartest guys in Frankfort.  He's passionate about finding waste, fraud, and abuse in state government and I think that's something the next administration is going to have to take seriously."

Comer will officially launch his gubernatorial bid and announce his running mate September 9 in his hometown of Tompkinsville. 

Louisville businessman Hal Heiner is also seeking the Republican nomination for governor.  Attorney General Jack Conway is the only announced Democratic candidate in the 2015 race.

Pages