Agriculture

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.

The air in Richwood, W.Va., is saturated with the smell of ramps — a pungent, garlicky, peppery smell so strong that it eclipses almost everything else in the room. Under this smell there's the faint aroma of bacon grease, in which the ramps have been fried. They're served with brown beans and ham.

As hundreds of people wait in line for their meal, local songwriter John Wyatt plays his Richwood Ramp Song, including this verse:

Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture

Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner says he’s looking forward to a court hearing Friday over his department’s lawsuit against the federal government.

James Comer this week sued three government agencies—the U.S. Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection--as well as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, over a 250 pound shipment of hemp seeds that is being held by federal customs officials in Louisville.

Language in the latest federal Farm Bill allows certain states that have adopted a regulatory framework to plant hemp for the first time in decades, and Kentucky passed a law allowing pilot hemp planting projects run by state-funded universities.

But Comer says federal agents in Louisville have continued to come up with reasons why the latest hemp shipment must be held. The Commissioner says a hearing is set for 1 p.m. eastern time Friday before a federal judge in Louisville.

“We believe that it’s a good sign, that we’re going to be in front of a federal judge this soon after filing a motion," the Monroe County native told WKU Public Radio. "So, hopefully we can get the seeds, because these seeds are going to the University of Kentucky. It’s not like these seeds are going to some shady, upstart business somewhere.”

Kentucky's first legal planting of hemp seeds in decades is being postponed.

Officials from the Kentucky Agriculture Department, Kentucky State University, and pro-hemp groups were scheduled to plant hemp seeds Friday in Rockcastle County as part of a pilot project following the recent relaxing of state and federal rules regarding the crop.

But Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced Thursday that the event has been postponed following a standoff between his department and federal officials over a detained shipment containing 250 pounds of hemp seeds.

The Agriculture Department filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the federal government, in an effort to get the shipment released by customs officials in Louisville.

Kentucky lawmakers passed a law allowing hemp to be planted as part of university-based research projects. Hemp advocates say the crop's fiber and oilseed can be used to make rope, paper, bio-fuels, cosmetics, and healthy foods.

In 1970, the federal government placed hemp on the list of Schedule One drugs, making it illegal to grow.

A shipment of hemp seeds from Italy has made it to Kentucky, but there’s a problem.

Customs officials in Louisville have so far refused to release the 250 pound shipment to the state Agriculture Department.

While Kentucky law was recently changed to allow the growing of hemp for university-run research projects, federal customs officials are still leery of signing off on the seed shipments. State officials say the confusion is holding up hemp seeds from getting to project locations in the commonwealth.

“I spoke with a customs official in Chicago, and once I advised her of what the law is, and what we’re doing at the Department of Agriculture, customs in Chicago released the seeds to Louisville, and now it’s just a question of getting everyone on the same page,” said Holly Harris VonLuehrte, chief of staff at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

VonLuehrte told WKU Public Radio Thursday afternoon that she thinks customs officials will sign off on the hemp seeds within “the next 24 hours.”

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