Suggested Remarks for
Governor Paul Patton
Agriculture Leadership Summit
November 13, 1998
Thank you Commissioner Smith. Its an honor to join once again with leaders from across the Commonwealth in a discussion of the future of our states largest industry. Things are happening in Agriculture. Change is occurring at a rapid pace, and the leadership resources in this room will enable us to manage this change in ways that will lead to a better future for Kentuckys farmers and rural communities.
We in Kentucky are especially proud that this year's Agriculture Leadership Summit is being held at the same time as the 25th anniversary of the North American Livestock Exposition. Our facilities here at the Fair Grounds are the finest in the world, and for 25 years, the North American Livestock Expo has known it and we are grateful that we continue to have the opportunity to host this important event.
Now let me say a brief word about something Im sure all of you are very interested in. As most of you are aware, there will likely be an announcement very soon regarding a proposed tobacco-related settlement between the states attorneys-general and the five major tobacco companies. Last month we advised legislative leaders and Commissioner Smith that a settlement proposal was imminent in the near future. I have yet to see the final formal agreement. Our staff will be reviewing the agreement as we receive it and we hope to have a detailed briefing at some point next week for legislative leadership, leaders of the public health community, and farm leaders. We will have a limited amount of time in which to make a decision regarding Kentuckys participation in this agreement. We will make our decision to opt-in or opt-out of the agreement based on these meetings. Thats about all we know at this point.
Now let me move to todays activities here at the Summit. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture, under the able leadership of Commissioner Smith, is changing its mission to better serve the marketing needs of Kentucky farmers. The $5 million grants program recently announced by the Department will channel development resources to the places where they will be best used, among producers of various agricultural products, with minimal resources being diverted into administration. Commissioner Smith is to be commended for his bold leadership in retooling a large state regulatory bureaucracy into a sophisticated marketing mechanism which facilitates the sale of Kentucky agricultural products throughout the world.
Now let me speak briefly to a topic of concern to a number of people assembled here today. For the past two years, the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet has been addressing the regulation of swine waste from large hog operations. On Tuesday of this week, the Administrative Regulation Review subcommittee of the General Assembly found the latest proposed regulations deficient. This means that the present regulations will continue to be enforced until the next regular session of the General Assembly in January, 2000.
I am confident that we can work together over the next 15 months to find the solution that serves the best interests of the Commonwealth. I am committed to preserving the opportunities offered to our farm families by the swine industry. I am also committed to protecting human health and the environment, and I do not believe that these two commitments are mutually exclusive of one another.
During the next 15 months, we will get a clear idea of the direction of federal regulations of animal feeding operations. We will have the opportunity to fully review the Odor and Environmental Assessment program in which the National Pork Producers Council has invested significant resources. We will have the opportunity to consider fresh perspectives on this issue as we proceed toward the solution that serves the best interests of us all. And with hog prices the way they are, it isnt likely anyone is going to want to build a hog facility in the near future anyway.
Now let me turn my attention to the man who we have come to honor today. Senator Wendell Ford has arguably done more to support agriculture and rural Kentucky than any other public official in our history. Throughout his career in the US Senate, he never forgot his roots. He has never lost touch with who he is. The combination of his leadership and his strong commitment to the people of Kentucky has added up to big gains for Kentuckys farmers, businesses, rural communities, students and families.
In the 1990s alone, Senator Ford pushed to require that American cigarettes include at least 75% American tobacco, more than twice as much as was included in many before. His 1993 tobacco import law led to a dramatic reduction in tobacco imports. He prevented a $1 increase in the federal excise tax offered in 1995. Senator Ford has pushed cigarette companies to purchase surplus tobacco to avoid cuts in quota.
He saw through the Fund for Rural America, a $300 million appropriation for rural development and research. Senator Ford stood up for Kentucky farmers in the face of regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.
And the copper belly snake ..Senator Ford put together a diverse group of interests and facilitated their reaching an accord which protects the snake but keeps it off the federal threatened species list. He even went so far as to insist that normal farming posed no threat to the snake and that the least possible burden be placed on mining.
Senator Wendell Ford has stood for the working people of Kentucky with uncanny wisdom and common sense. His actions have always demonstrated louder than any words his commitment to his home state and to all of us. He has tirelessly worked for housing loans for low-income citizens, grants for water and sewer projects, to support research and for the improvement of agricultural processing and marketing facilities.
Senator Ford has offered to the agriculture community and to Kentucky in general invaluable leadership that will be sorely missed. I am honored to share today in this tribute to this extraordinary man, and I ask that you join me in showing a fraction of our appreciation to him.