Commissioner spells out his vision of good government
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 5, 2013) — Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer hailed a banner year for Kentucky agriculture and laid out a vision of effective government that works with the private sector in his annual State of Kentucky Agriculture address today during the Commodity Luncheon at Kentucky Farm Bureau’s 94th Annual Meeting in Louisville.
“While other industries are struggling in a tough economy, the state of agriculture in Kentucky is outstanding,” Comer said, pointing out that Kentucky crops are achieving record yields and production, horse sales are booming, and beef cattle and poultry are building on a strong year in 2012.
Comer’s speech followed a presentation by University of Kentucky agricultural economists who said that farm cash receipts from the sale of agriculture and forestry products could approach or even exceed $6 billion in 2013.
The ag commissioner mentioned that a UK study published last summer said the commonwealth’s equine industry generates $3 billion in economic activity and more than 40,000 Kentucky jobs.
Comer told the crowd at the Galt House Hotel that government does many things well, but complex problems that demand creativity and innovation are best left to the private sector. Government can work in partnership with private business, as the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has done with success, Comer said.
“Government can foster a business-friendly environment,” Comer said. “It can be a resource and provide an assist when necessary. It can even act as a matchmaker between producers and businesses. But then it must step aside and get out of the way.”
He cited numerous successful initiatives at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in 2013, including:
♦ Bipartisan passage of Senate Bill 50, which creates an administrative framework for licensing and regulating industrial hemp production in Kentucky;
♦ Homegrown by Heroes, which identifies farm products produced by Kentucky veterans, and Jobs for Vets, which helps veterans enter careers in agriculture. Last month, Homegrown by Heroes was scaled up to the national level, where it will be administered by the Farmer Veteran Coalition;
♦ Growth of the farm license plate, or “ag tag,” program, which is generating thousands of new dollars for Kentucky 4-H, Kentucky FFA, and Kentucky Proud;
♦ The Farm to Campus Program, which is helping Kentucky universities locate and buy Kentucky Proud food products for their food service systems and gift shops;
♦ The Farm to School Junior Chef competition, which encourages young people to cook healthy, locally produced food;
♦ Kentucky Proud for Kentuckybreds, which links the state’s signature horse industry to its agriculture industry by identifying horses bred in Kentucky;
♦ Successful closure of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s motor fuel and pesticide testing laboratory, which will save Kentucky taxpayers some $600,000 a year, and the return of the original $1.65 million earmark for the lab to the state Treasury; and
♦ Udderly Kentucky, a brand that represents milk produced by Kentucky dairy farm families and processed by Prairie Farms Dairy of Somerset.
Comer received a standing ovation at the end of his speech, the first in many years at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Commodity Luncheon.