Agriculture

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.

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.

Lisa Autry

The application window is now open for Kentucky farmers and processors who want to grow hemp for research in 2015. 

Several Kentucky universities, including WKU, grew hemp this year for the first time in decades.  The application deadline for the next round  is January 1.

The first round of pilot projects yielded a lot of data about production methods, seed varieties, and processing techniques. 

"This past year we were as far west as Murray and as far east as Bath County.  We'd like to see that continuation or even expansion on either end," said Adam Watson, Industrial Hemp Program Coordinator in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.  "Definitely, we have different growing environments in Kentucky."

Applications are available on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's website at www.kyagr.com/hemp.  Applicants who are selected will undergo background checks and site visits.

The State Agriculture Committee heard an update last week on Kentucky's hemp pilot project. In September, researchers at the University of Kentucky harvested the first legal crop in decades. UK Plant Sciences Professor David Williams says there's growing interest in a variety of hemp supported products.  "They're particularly interested in the vast of the long strong fibers for composite materials like car door panels, pseudo plastics, particle board type products, building construction materials," said Williams.

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.

Survey Shows Jump in Retail Food Prices in Kentucky

Oct 16, 2014

A new survey of Kentucky food prices says the rising cost of beef and pork products led to an overall 3.9 percent jump in retail food prices during the third quarter of the year.

The Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation's survey was conducted last month. It listed the total cost of 40 basic grocery items at $127, compared with $122.23 in the previous quarter.

The Farm Bureau says it's the fifth consecutive quarter with an increasing price total.

The latest results show Kentucky's grocery prices rising by 5.8 percent overall in 2014.

Of the six food groups recorded in the most recent survey, the beef category showed the largest total gain. Pork was not far behind.

Kevin Willis

Corn farmers in south central Kentucky say the dry summer didn't affect crops as much as they feared.

Smiths Grove farmer Chad Elkins, for one, was expecting spotty crops this season but he says that wasn't the case in his fields. Another farmer, David Hunt, says modern crop genetics make the crop better able to handle dry conditions. But Hunt says the low rainfall meant his yield was down to 125 bushels an acre compared to 200 bushels an acre last year.

Lisa Autry

An outdoor classroom in rural Ohio County is teaching children where their food comes from and how to grow it themselves.

Beaver Dam Elementary School is the first school in the state to have a garden on school grounds.  Kindergarten teacher Becky Gaither helped start the garden project. She says students learn the value of hard work by maintaining the garden and they get to enjoy the harvest.

"Just this past week, some grades harvested cherry tomatoes and herbs," Gaither remarked.  "They made pizzas in their classrooms and the students did the vegetable preparation themselves, washing and slicing and dicing."

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer traveled to Beaver Dam Elementary on Thursday to recognize the school as having the state’s first certified “Ready, Set, Grow” garden.  Comer said he hopes the concept will expand statewide.

"A lot of times we have communities where kids think their chicken comes from the drive-thru window at McDonald's and their milk comes from the grocery store," Comer stated.  "They don't realize it comes from farms and when they have that lack of knowledge they don't have an appreciation for farmers or agriculture."

The raised garden beds feature herbs, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and watermelons, as well as shrubs and flowers.  The effort is funded through donations from businesses and individuals. 

Kentucky's Department of Agriculture says events promoting farm safety are planned at high schools across the state.

The Department says Kentucky had 14 farming-related fatalities in 2013, down from 22 in 2011 and 50 in 1995. On a percentage basis, farming remains one of the nation's most dangerous occupations, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The Agriculture Department's Farm & Home Safety Program is spreading the message about farm safety with events at Central Hardin High School, LaRue County High School and others.

Kentucky’s cattle producers will get to vote in two elections this November. 

A referendum on whether producers may be assessed two dollars per head of cattle marketed in Kentucky is scheduled for November 20. 

For each animal sold in Kentucky, one dollar is currently placed into a pool for beef marketing, research, and education.  Half remains in the state while the rest goes into a national reserve.  The assessment has remained at one dollar since 1985.

"The program has been around for a long time and the value of a dollar now compared to where it was 28 years ago is like 44 cents," says Dave Maples, Executive Vice President of the Kentucky Cattleman's Association.  "We do have competition out there so we want to promote our product and have people keep eating beef."

The referendum will be held from 8:00 am-6:00 pm on November 20 at all county extension offices across the state.  If cattle producers vote in favor of the increase, it would become effective next April.

Lisa Autry

Another milestone is being reached in Kentucky’s effort to grow and market industrial hemp. 

One of the state’s first legal hemp crops was harvested Thursday at the WKU farm in Bowling Green. 

Agriculture professors and students gathered among the thin, leafy plants grown in a half-acre plot, one of nine locations around Kentucky.  What began as seeds in early June were towering 12-foot tall plants. 

WKU worked with the state Agriculture Department to grow hemp for research under a provision in the federal farm bill.

WKU Agriculture Professor Dr. Paul Woosley assessed the inaugural crop.

"It's grown pretty well, the plants that got established.  "Because of the hold up with the DEA, we didn't get the seed when we would have liked, so it was about a month late," Woosley explained.

The seeds, imported from Italy, were held up for several weeks following a dispute with the federal government.

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.

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