Agriculture

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.

Corn, Soybean Production to Drop in Kentucky

Aug 14, 2014
Kevin Willis

A double-digit drop in corn and soybean production by Kentucky farmers is being predicted in a new report.

Corn production in the state is forecast at 200 million bushels, down 18% from last year. Soybean production for Kentucky is forecast at 67.6 million bushels, a 17% drop from 2013. The predictions are in a report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service's field office in Kentucky.

It estimates statewide corn yield at 138 bushels per acre, down 32 bushels from 2013. Soybean yield is estimated at 40 bushels per acre, down 9.5 bushels from a year ago.

Missouri voters have narrowly passed an amendment to the state’s constitution instituting a so-called "right to farm" and the chair of the Kentucky House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Small Business says a similar action could be coming in the commonwealth.

To Save These Pigs, Ky. Farmer Says We Have To Eat Them

Jul 21, 2014

Robertson County has the smallest population of any county in the state of Kentucky, and it's the only one, word has it, without a stoplight.

So it's an unlikely place to find a campaign to keep the food system more genetically diverse. But that is exactly what's happening on a small farm owned by Travis Hood, called Hood's Heritage Hogs.

Abbey Oldham

A coalition of business, political, and refugee-rights groups in south-central Kentucky is calling on Congress to pass immigration reform.  

As part of a so-called national “Day of Action”, representatives from various backgrounds spoke Wednesday in Bowling Green about the need for Congressional  leaders and the Obama Administration to get reform passed this year.

Barren County dairy farmer H.H. Barlow, a presidential appointee to the U.S. Board for International Food and Agriculture Development, said many Americans don’t understand the impact immigrant labor has on sectors such as the agriculture industry.

“I hate the word ‘criminals’, or ‘illegal aliens’—I don’t like that term. They’re workers. They’re performing an essential service to our country,” Barlow said.

The Barren County farmer said he speaks to his elected representatives about the need for immigration reform each time he sees them. Barlow believes that reform will not only benefit immigrants, but also the U.S. economy.

Farmland in Kentucky Shrinking

Jul 7, 2014

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says farms and land devoted to farming in Kentucky has drastically decreased in recent years. The census of agriculture says between 2007 and 2012, Kentucky had the greatest percentage decrease in farmland of and state in the country.

Farmland declined in the state over that time by 943,000 acres, or 6.7%. The number of farms in Kentucky also declined, from 85,260 in 2007 to 77,064 in 2012. Daniel Smaldone, a spokesman for Kentucky Farm Bureau, says the state probably saw a decline because some land was unproductive and some was intentionally rotated out of production.

Other states with the largest percentage declines in farmland were Alaska 5.4%, Georgia 5.2%, Mississippi 4.6% and Wisconsin 4.1%.

Kentucky’s burgeoning hemp industry may receive a shot in the arm later this year if the state changes a loan program for agricultural processors.

Roger Thomas is the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. He says a loan program designed to cover the costs of processing other agricultural products could apply to hemp processing once state universities have determined which hemp products are best suited for Kentucky.

“If the research proves that it’s a viable crop for Kentucky farmers, then perhaps later this year the Ag Development Board might look at tweaking some guidelines to allow the County Agricultural Investment Program, the county funds, to be accessed for that purpose.”

State agriculture experts predict that the cost of creating infrastructure for a new hemp industry will affect how successful it can become.

The most recent farm bill is allowing a handful of farmers across the country to put hemp, the nonpsychoactive cousin of marijuana, in the ground.

The bill allows small-scale experimentation with the plant. But despite the new law, many farmers say they're getting mixed messages from the federal government.

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