Agriculture

Agriculture
10:55 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Farm Bill Charts New Course For Nation's Farmers

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 1:56 pm

The House on Wednesday passed a new five-year compromise farm bill. The bill now moves to the Senate for a vote.

The farm bill — the result of a two-year-long legislative saga — remains massive. The bill contains about $500 billion in funding, most of which is pegged to the food stamp program, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

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Agriculture
1:35 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Hemp Supporters Applaud Federal Farm Bill

Hemp supporters are hailing the federal Farm Bill that Congress will vote on in coming days.  The bipartisan agreement is expected to clear the House and Senate.  The measure contains a provision that allows universities and state agriculture departments to grow hemp for research purposes. 

“Hemp has this long history in the United States, but that history pretty much ended in the 1950s, and all the genetics are lost.  We need to have research on new varieties," says Eric Steenstra, president of  the advocacy group Vote Hemp.   "A lot of things have changed in the last 60 years, and there are new markets and opportunities.”

Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill last year that allows industrial hemp production if a federal ban is lifted. 

“For months, we have tried to get some assurance at the federal level that Kentucky producers can grow industrial hemp without fear of government harassment or prosecution. This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said in a news release.

Comers hails the Farm Bill provision as a giant step toward restoring the crop, which used to make products ranging from clothes to cosmetics.

Hemp was banned decades ago when the government classified it as a controlled substance related to marijuana.

Eleven states, including Tennessee, have introduced hemp legislation this year.

Agriculture
7:02 am
Mon January 20, 2014

How Food Hubs Are Helping New Farmers Break Into Local Food

Marty Travis (right) started the Stewards of the Land food hub in 2005. His son Will helps him transport food from local farms to area restaurants.
Sean Powers Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Mon January 20, 2014 3:10 pm

Lots of consumers are smitten with local food, but they're not the only ones. The growing market is also providing an opportunity for less experienced farmers to expand their business and polish their craft.

But they need help, and increasingly it's coming from food hubs, which can also serve as food processing and distribution centers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that there are about 240 of them in more than 40 states plus the District of Columbia.

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Agriculture
5:00 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Issues Ten Percent Challenge

Homemade jams are on of the offerings at the Community Farmer's Market in Bowling Green.
Credit Lisa Autry

Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner is asking you to add one more New Year’s resolution to your list.  James Comer wants families to spend at least ten percent of their food dollars this year on locally grown food.

There are several ways to buy Kentucky Proud products.  Jackson Rolett with the Community Farmer’s Market in Bowling Green says the indoor market provides consumers with fresh produce even in the winter.

"Some of the things we can offer are a lot of squash and greens, a lot of root crops, turnips, beets, carrots, potatoes," explains Rolett.  "We also have a lot of farmers who are diversifying into high tunnel production and greenhouse production, so we have some producers here with red tomatoes.

Another way to buy Kentucky Proud is by visiting certain grocery chains, including Kroger, Walmart, and Whole Foods. 

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Agriculture
4:48 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Sequester Cuts Could Cost Kentucky Tobacco Farmers Millions of Dollars

Kentucky tobacco farmers stand to lose an estimated $12 million because of federal budget cuts related to the sequester. Those cuts are scheduled to hit the next round of price support payments sent to about 100,000 Kentucky tobacco farmers and quota holders.

Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney told WKU Public Radio the payments should be exempt from the federal spending cuts.

"This shouldn't even be considered for sequestration because it's actually a contract that was signed between the tobacco producers and the tobacco manufacturers. Really, the federal government was just holding the money and making the program work."

Haney says members of Kentucky's congressional delegation and farm lobby are teaming up with their counterparts in other states as the next tobacco quota payment nears.

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Agriculture
2:45 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Sustainable Glasgow Wants to Turn Unused Building into Permanent Home for Local Farmers' Market

The Bounty of the Barrens Farmers' Market is currently held along the courthouse square in downtown Glasgow.
Credit www.glasgow-ky.com

If a Barren County organization has its way, an unoccupied building on Glasgow's downtown square will be turned into a year-round farmers' market.

Sustainable Glasgow has applied for a matching grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund to pay for half of the cost of renovating the building.

"It could be our permanent home, it would be on the square, we could have an indoor food court, and we could market more local farm products and farm-to-table prepared foods," Sustainable Glasgow President Jerry Ralston told WKU Public Radio.

The group's plans for the facility would also include a full commercial kitchen and cold storage for produce that could be sold by vendors in the building and wholesaled to local restaurants, schools, and hospitals.

Ralston says he hopes to hear within the next few months whether Sustainable Glasgow's grant application has been approved.

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Agriculture
8:41 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Hemp Proponents Take Their Case to Nation's Capital

Hemp supporters will rally in Washington D.C. Monday.

Members of Vote Hemp and other groups are descending on the nation’s capital for Hemp Lobby Day to convince Congress to lift a federal ban on the plant for industrial use.

Earlier this year Kentucky lawmakers approved the research and cultivation of hemp, but it has yet to be implemented because the federal government still considers the crop a controlled substance.

The dilemma has pitted two potential gubernatorial candidates against one another: Hemp supporter and state Agricultural Commissioner James Comer, and Attorney General Jack Conway. Conway issued an opinion in September stating that under the federal ban, hemp remains illegal in the state.

“Sometimes it’s my job to say what the law is, not what I want the law to be," said the Attorney General. "I support industrial hemp, I think we can make it work. If it can create jobs, great. Now, is it the panacea for all of Kentucky’s agricultural woes? I don’t know.”

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Agriculture
8:15 am
Thu November 14, 2013

End of Federal Tobacco Transition Program Could Impact Agriculture Across Kentucky

Tobacco drying in a Kentucky barn

The year 2014 may be one of uncertainty for Kentucky’s farmers.

The federal Tobacco Transition Payment Program will end in January. For 10 years, the program has given farmers across the nation money to diversify their crops away from tobacco. Earlier this year, a federal court found that Kentucky's management of Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement funds was “non-diligent.” As a penalty a percentage of the payment will be withheld.

Roger Thomas is executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. He told lawmakers Wednesday the reduction could affect programs such as Kentucky Proud and state-supported farmer's markets.

“I’m hopeful, I’m optimistic that the programs that I have mentioned here today, the good programs that have such a tremendous impact on not just agriculture, but Kentucky as a whole, that these programs will be able to continue in the future as they had in the past.”

Thomas said he would have a clearer picture of the effect that reductions in federal funding will have by March next year.

Agriculture
2:01 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Conway: Growing Hemp Still a Violation of Federal Law

Industrial hemp is legal in many countries, including Canada and parts of Europe and Asia.

Attorney General Jack Conway is advising Kentucky leaders that industrial hemp farming remains illegal in the commonwealth.

Conway issued an advisory letter on Wednesday to Gov. Steve Beshear, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and others to clarify current law related to hemp. The letter appears to deflate hopes of hemp farming proponents who have said they'd like to begin planting next year.

Kentucky lawmakers have passed legislation that would allow farmers to grow the crop if the federal government ever lifts a longstanding ban. But Attorney General Conway said that ban remains firmly in place.

The state agriculture department recently issued a news release saying it was instructed by the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission to begin drawing up regulations for hemp farming in the commonwealth. That came on the heels of comments by Justice Department officials that the federal government had no intention of prosecuting hemp farmers.

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Agriculture
2:52 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

Kentucky Hemp Panel Tells Washington It's Moving Forward with Hemp Production

The year 2013 has seen a huge push by states like Kentucky to get hemp production legalized.

Kentucky’s Industrial Hemp Commission is serving notice to the federal government that it plans to move forward with creating regulations for hemp production in the commonwealth.

A news release from the state agriculture department says staff members have been instructed to begin the process of writing rules for the development of the long-banned crop. The state’s industrial hemp commission is calling for Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and U.S. Senator Rand Paul to write a letter to the U.S. Justice Department to “make Kentucky’s intentions known.”

Recent changes to state law have opened the door to future hemp production in Kentucky, although growing the crop is still technically illegal under federal rules.

But Commissioner Comer is pointing to recent statements by a Justice Department official who said the federal government has no intentions of prosecuting hemp farmers.

"Surely...no entity will seek to throw up a government obstacle to moving forward with another opportunity for Kentucky farmers and for manufacturing jobs."

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