|By TIM THORNBERRY
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s recent session of the General Assembly saw passage of a bill that will provide an avenue for farmers to provide state agencies with agriculture commodities.
House Bill 669 requires Kentucky agencies to purchase state produced agriculture products whenever these products are available and meet quality and price requirements.
The legislation also requires state agencies that purchase Kentucky-grown foods to report on the amount of each product purchased to the General Assembly and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) on or before Jan. 1 of each year.
The bill was sponsored by state Reps. Adrian Arnold, D-Mount Sterling, and Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana.
“This bill provides our farmers another market for their Kentucky Proud products,” said Ag Commissioner Richie Farmer. “It also gives consumers more opportunities to discover that nothing else is close to Kentucky Proud foods. I want to thank Gov. (Ernie) Fletcher and the General Assembly for passing this bill.
“This is important legislation for Kentucky farmers. It will give many growers a new source of income for their farm products. More income for Kentucky farmers means more spending close to home, which strengthens Kentucky’s local communities.”
A pilot program was introduced a couple of years ago encouraging state parks to purchase local commodities whenever possible. The Kentucky Department of Parks bought more than $21,000 worth of those products in 2005, the first full year the state bought produce from local growers. The Parks Department operates 17 resorts throughout the state and three cafes in Frankfort.
The Community Farm Alliance (CFA), an organization that promotes the family farm as the most efficient and sustainable form of producing the best quality food, was instrumental in lobbying for this legislation as a way to move toward a localized food economy. John Sharpe, a CFA board member and Scott County cattle farmer, said the act will boost efforts to diversify Kentucky’s agriculture industry.
“The state has invested a lot of money helping farmers to diversify into new areas of production,” Sharpe said. “Providing dependable markets for these new products will give farmers the assurance they need to keep diversifying. It is a common-sense step and a win-win situation for everyone involved.”
Sharpe testified before the House Agriculture and Small business Committee after the legislation was introduced. Bonnie Cecil, the 2004 CFA president, farmer and retired educator sees the legislation as a step toward fulfilling CFA’s vision of a local independent food economy or LIFE.
“I feel like LIFE is my baby I’m so attached to it,” she said. “We compromise our life when we expect other people from somewhere else to grow our food. We can’t sacrifice farmland and expect other people to feed us. I hope this bill helps keep farmers farming, preserves our farmland and strengthens our local economies.”
Kentucky farm income totaled $4.13 billion in 2004, the first year farm receipts topped $4 billion, according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service.
This farm news was published in the May 10, 2006 issue of Farm World.