By TIM THORNBERRY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The 2012 Kentucky Agricultural Summit is set to take place Nov. 8-9 and will focus on the next generation of farmers.
The idea of a summit started in 2007 as a directive from then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher to develop a strategic plan of action to build on the state’s agricultural successes and propel all of Kentucky agriculture into the future.
That first summit brought a challenge from Fletcher to the state’s agriculture leaders to create a five-year strategy that would serve as a “plan that embraces the goals and objectives of the entire industry and creates a roadmap to guide our farm families to a brighter and more profitable tomorrow,” he said.
That plan has served the ag sector well, as the industry has seen marked growth and sustainability in the midst of recession. A new plan will be presented at this summit focusing on a variety of issues, all related to advancing the agriculture industry in Kentucky.
Keith Rogers, who served as the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural policy when the first summit took place, is one of the three co-chairs of the Task Force on the Future of Agriculture that oversaw the completion of this year’s strategic plan. The Task Force serves under the umbrella of the Kentucky Agriculture Council (KAC), of which Rogers is a board member.
He said the KAC led efforts to develop the first plan and what will be unveiled at this summit is a follow-up to that, to be finalized and approved.
“Early on in the work of the Task Force, which started in February, next-generation farmers, young farmers and those returning from careers to farm, and folks retiring and starting another career and entering agriculture production – that quickly became a focal point and is now identified as one of the seven topic areas in the strategic plan, and was identified by the Ag Council board as the theme of the summit,” he said.
Other topic areas include consumer outreach, education, government, marketing and rural development. Rogers added in developing the first plan, a goal was clearly written, action items to achieve the goal were put into place and a way to measure success was included, all making it unique.
He also noted the summit is an opportunity to come together once a year to gain focus on the industry. “The council designed the summit to basically not to be like other farm organization meetings. This is that one opportunity to be that umbrella; to have all those organizations and their members come together to have that broad agenda,” he said.
“Leaders will come together in Kentucky agriculture to share ideas, to discuss potential topics and issues that cut across lots of commodity industry sectors of agriculture.”
That agenda includes addresses from state agriculture officials and ag experts from other parts of the country. There will also be panel discussions featuring student leaders, young farmers and government officials, as well as those representing different agricultural industries and educational institutes.
Dan Flanagan, chair of the KAC, has an extensive background in agriculture, from the production end to the education and government sectors. He said with farmers making up fewer than 2 percent of the population and their average age rising, the summit is encouraging young people to get involved in agriculture.
“Our strategic plan has utilized much information from FFA and 4-H members. We believe there’s a great future in ag and I am very encouraged about the caliber of many of our leaders in the young farmers’ organizations,” he said.
Flanagan also said the agriculture industry has done well, and that makes it attractive to many of the young people looking to get involved. “The ag economy is doing quite well and many of our agriculture-type companies are certainly hiring and certainly paying quite well,” he said.
He is encouraged by the young people with whom he has been working in both academic and agriculture arenas. “It gives me a lot of faith in the future of agriculture and the future of the economy in the state of Kentucky because we have a lot of sharp young people out there.”
The Summit will be at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. For more information, go to www.kyagsummit.com