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.

Mechanization has made the farming of many crops — lettuce and tomatoes among them — a lot less labor intensive. But some crops are still tended and harvested by hand, and it can be painstaking work.

How do you measure the labor intensity of crops? We thought there would be an easy answer to that, but there isn't. Some agricultural economists talk about labor input in terms of hours per acre, but that may not take into account the difficulty of the labor.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer thinks Kentucky-grown hemp is on its way to becoming a hot commodity. 

From clothing manufacturers to automotive suppliers, U.S. companies currently import hemp from other countries where it is legal to grow the crop.  Companies are interested to see if Kentucky could become a domestic source of hemp.

"The universities and the agriculture department are getting calls almost on a daily basis from different companies, some are publicly traded, others are very successful private companies, that want to process hemp," Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told WKU Public Radio.  "There are a lot of companies in the U.S. that purchase hemp produced and processed in Canada and China, so the interest is there," he added.

According to Comer, the outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia has partnered with the Growing Warriors Project, a program working with veterans and their families to grow and market naturally grown food, to develop a hemp clothing line.

Hemp's financial impact remains to be seen.  A 2013 report from the University of Kentucky suggested that only a few dozen jobs would be created and that hemp would amount to less than one percent of Kentucky’s farm cash receipts.

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.