Remarks by Governor
Paul E. Patton
Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast
August 22, 2002
Thank you, Sam. Over the past two years, I have had the opportunity to work closely with you on the Agricultural Development Board, and I appreciate the leadership you provide us on very complex issues. You represent the Kentucky Farm Bureau very well and I thank you for your service to the Commonwealth.
Commissioner Billy Ray Smith, I want to say a special
thanks to you and the Department of Agriculture for your leadership, especially
in the area of marketing and promotion of our farm products. Your Kentucky
Fresh campaign is off to a good start, and your department is to be
commended for its hard work.
As most of you know, the State Fair is one of my favorite
times of the year, and the Ham Breakfast is one of my favorite events. It’s a
special time when we can pause and reflect for a while on what brings us
together as Kentuckians, what’s good about Kentucky, and in particular,
what’s good about Kentucky agriculture.
I’d like to
use this occasion to report to you the state of agriculture in Kentucky as I see
One of the greatest blessings in life, at least in my
opinion, is the privilege of being raised in rural Kentucky or being able to
raise a family in rural Kentucky. I’ve
had both opportunities and some of the highest priorities of our administration
have been to preserve the option for future Kentuckians if they want it for
Over the past six years, our administration has worked hard
to seize some important opportunities and create some others on behalf of
Kentucky’s farm families. These opportunities now have us in a position to
successfully manage our way through the changes being forced on our farm
families by downturns in the tobacco economy.
In my first executive budget in 1996, which was a sparse
budget, we increased funding for the Department of Agriculture, provided record
high levels of support for important agricultural research, and development
infrastructure and we funded investments at UK’s Pin Oak Farm.
The agricultural community spoke; we listened and we acted.
In July 1998, to keep me in direct contact with the changes
happening in Kentucky’s agricultural economy, I established the first
Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. Over the past four years, this
office has assumed critical administrative functions few people envisioned at
the time we created it.
In November 1998, Kentucky signed onto the Master
Settlement Agreement, and we immediately went to work on nailing down direct
compensation for our tobacco farmers to offset losses they might incur as a
result of the settlement.
It was in March of 1999 that we signed the National Tobacco
Growers Settlement Trust. Since
then that program has delivered unrestricted direct cash payments to over
150,000 Kentuckians totaling more than $324 million.
And those who were in Raleigh, North Carolina during those critical
negotiations about the future of the tobacco farmers of America know if it
hadn’t been for the leadership Commissioner Smith and I provided at a critical
juncture in those negotiations we wouldn’t have a Phase II program and if we
hadn’t been tough, Kentucky wouldn’t have gotten our fair share of the
proceeds. The other states now
realize that we got the most favorable distribution that we could have possibly
gotten. That’s what you sent us
down there to do and we did it!
In December of this year, the Trust will deliver another
$130 million to our tobacco quota owners and growers. This $454 million,
including a $40 million supplement from the agricultural development fund and
$320 million more from Senator McConnell’s Tobacco Loss Assistance Program,
bring the grand total of direct compensation to Kentucky tobacco farmers to $770
million since December 1999!
And we’ve managed to get that money to our farmers with
the lowest administrative costs among all 14 states participating in the
trust. Our costs have been just one-fourth of what North Carolina has spent,
and every dollar saved on program administration goes directly to our farm
families. The help of our county extension offices and local farm service agency
personnel has been a big part of this success.
We also recognize what a valuable partner the federal
government can be to our farm families. Last
year my office submitted an application to the US Department of Agriculture
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to access federal funds for
environmental conservation efforts.
Largely as a result of the environmental cost-share funds
committed from our Agricultural Development initiative and a strong application
from several state agencies, we were awarded $85 million in federal funds, the
largest federally financed agricultural conservation program in the state’s
With the state’s matching funds, over $105 million will
be channeled to the nine counties in the Green River watershed area over the
next 15 years to protect one of Kentucky’s most threatened natural waterways
and to pay farmers for the public service they perform by keeping our rivers and
But the centerpiece of our efforts to sustain our family
farms is the Agricultural Development Fund, the largest state-financed
agricultural diversification effort in the history of the United States.
Let me review for you some of the highlights since this program came into
existence just two short years ago:
$36 million committed to the Soil Erosion and Water
Quality Cost-share program administered by the Division of Conservation
A $50 million bond issue to extend water lines in areas
of high agricultural activity
A $25 million bond issue to support statewide and local
farmland preservation efforts
Over 1400 new project proposals reviewed, and 735
approved for a total investment of $96.5 million in agricultural
diversification projects from Perry County to the Purchase Area, and
everywhere in between. And these dollars are being matched by the
project participants! So that
totals almost $200 million to modernize Kentucky’s farming industry.
Over $43.8 million of these projects are developing new
markets for Kentucky farm products; new markets for livestock, grain, and
horticulture. We’re supporting
many new and emerging opportunities for Kentucky farmers, like aquaculture,
vermiculture, mushrooms, forestry and many other new projects that didn’t
exist two years ago. There are livestock processing facilities, ethanol
production facilities, horticulture processing cooperatives, and many other
examples of new markets that are just now coming into existence.
Another $30 million has been invested in our strategic
effort to make Kentucky the premier feeder cattle producer in the country.
Farmers are receiving direct compensation to their individual operations through
cost-share programs in cattle genetics, cattle handling, forage improvement,
agricultural diversification, and our goat program.
In addition, we’ve financed the Kentucky Center for
Cooperative Development, the Kentucky Beef Network, and the Kentucky Center for
Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship, all of which didn’t exist just
two short years ago.
And we’re studying new opportunities. We’re studying new markets for grapes, soybeans, aquaculture, meat and dairy goats, biomass, and even worms.
But we’re just getting this effort going full steam. Our long-term plan for agricultural development charts a new course for Kentucky agriculture built on new marketing activity, new capital access programs, support for environmental stewardship, farm family education programs, local leadership development and strong commitments to research and development, focusing on making existing agricultural activities more efficient so our farmers can be more competitive and developing new farm activities to open up new opportunities.
So how do we compare to other states?
What are other tobacco states doing for their farmers? Tennessee used
their tobacco settlement to balance their budget shortfalls. North Carolina is
using their resources for several other items besides diversifying their farm
economy. While Virginia is doing some good things to assist its tobacco
producers, the scope of its efforts does not approach our commitment to Kentucky
There are several people to thank for this monumental and
historic commitment. First and foremost, let me publicly thank the members of
the Kentucky General Assembly. I
know they’ve already been recognized but I’d like to ask them to stand again
and be recognized for keeping the faith with Kentucky’s farm families. In the
context of the largest budget shortfall in history, and bleak revenue
projections, you stayed the course with our farming communities and your deserve
And let me pause to say that we must not take dedication of
fifty percent of the Tobacco Settlement Fund to agriculture for granted.
The pressure to use these funds for other worthwhile purposes will always
Not all members of the General Assembly, or all candidates
for governor for that matter, will have the welfare of our family farms as their
highest priority. Make sure you
know a politician’s priorities before you pledge your support.
Our county agricultural development council members also
deserve recognition. They represent the backbone of our efforts to re-engineer
rural Kentucky, to revitalize our farms and our rural communities. If you’re a
county agricultural development council member, please stand and be recognized.
Our state board members deserve more than our thanks.
I’ve never before witnessed a higher level of commitment by members of a
public board than your Agricultural Development Board members. I’ll ask our
board members now to stand and be recognized for all of your incredibly hard
work and unfailing commitment.
And last but not least, I want to recognize the men and
women who provide the staff support for the Agricultural Development Board. They
visit your county councils, they do the legwork on analyzing projects, and they
work as hard as any office in state government. John-Mark Hack and his staff are doing an incredible job!!!
To all of you who are making this program work, we owe our
thanks. You’re writing a new chapter in Kentucky history. You’re chartering
new waters for the nation, proving that farming and rural communities have a
future, a prosperous future, when the right combination of capital and
leadership resources converges.
Now I’d like to make a presentation. It’s a symbolic
presentation, but it’s important nonetheless. The General Assembly
appropriated over $180 million to the Agricultural Development Fund in the 2000
session. As a result of the 2002
session, another $120 million was committed to continue our efforts. I’d like
to call on President Sam Moore and Commissioner Billy Ray Smith to receive this
$120 million check on behalf of our farm families and rural communities. These
are dollars that represent what will be invested over the remainder of my
administration in Frankfort in the future of Kentucky farmers and their
It’s a down payment on our future, and one in which we
can all take great pride. The future of Kentucky agriculture is brighter today,
and opportunities for Kentucky farmers are greater today because of these
Our legislature, our county councils, and our state board
are leading Kentucky through an historic undertaking never before tried anywhere
in the United States. Their leadership means that Kentucky is leading the nation
in agricultural development. Think about that. Think about the fact that one of
the most tobacco dependent farm states in the country is leading the nation in
the diversification of our agricultural economy.
Let’s continue to embrace the challenges before us.
Let’s work constructively together to continue the process of recreating the
Kentucky farm economy. Together we’ve made a whale of a start, and together,
we’ll change all of Kentucky for the better.