By TIM THORNBERRY
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The state’s official agriculture marketing and promotion program, Kentucky Proud, received funding last week through the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund (KADF) to the tune of $2.83 million.
The money will be used to continue the program over the next two years. Since being established in 2000 by legislation, it has grown to include 2,100 members with more than $200 million in retail sales annually.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who chairs the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, said the program is one of the premier marketing and branding initiatives in the country. “Kentucky Proud is not only important to agriculture, but it is also valuable to our citizens who seek local products and strive to support the local economy,” he said.
Roger Thomas, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy (GOAP), which oversees the KADF, said Kentucky Proud is a perfect example of a true partnership that exists between that office and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA).
“Kentucky Proud is one of the shining examples of the many investments from the KADF that have truly made a difference in Kentucky agriculture,” he added.
The fund, which comes from tobacco settlement money, has been used to diversify the landscape of the state’s agricultural industry and is the sole source of income for the Kentucky Proud program.
Thomas said the KADF has been so successful in its investments it has become a model that other states look to emulate.
“That tells me it’s been an excellent program not just for agriculture and not just for farm families, but for the Commonwealth as a whole,” he said. “When you look at the tremendous benefits the KADF has had on our agricultural economy, I think that’s had a direct benefit as well to our overall economy.”
That ag economy has swelled in the last decade and last year topped, for the first time, the $5 billion mark in farm cash receipts.
Kentucky Proud products include a wide variety of goods, from value-added items such as jams and jellies, salsa and dairy products to beef, poultry and pork products. Even the equine industry is benefiting from the marketing endeavors created by the program.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said funding for Kentucky Proud is divided into three basic areas: marketing, an incentive program for restaurants to encourage the use of Kentucky Proud products in their meals and point-of-purchase grants also used as an incentive for businesses to include the brand.
He said from a marketing standpoint, the emphasis now is more on the Kentucky Proud vendor. “When you see an ad, you’re going to see Kentucky Proud farmers and Kentucky Proud small businesses,” he said.
Comer explained in marketing this way, customers will see firsthand the people and businesses with which they are dealing. He noted as a farmer and former legislator, he has seen the work KADF has done since its inception and how beneficial it has been.
“Nothing has had a greater impact on the agriculture industry in Kentucky than the tobacco settlement funds,” he said.
“There wouldn’t be a Kentucky Proud program without (those) funds.”
The KADF is used on statewide projects as well as for county programs. Comer said the county investments have been huge and for every dollar that has been spent at the county level, there has probably been $4 worth of economic activity because most of the money was issued on a cost-share basis.
The current funding for Kentucky Proud marks the first complete budget Comer will oversee as agriculture commissioner for that program, and he plans to make those dollars go even further than in the past.
“Dollar for dollar, we will get significantly more advertising for the same amount of money in the future. I think you’ll see there will be significantly more attention paid to the individual Kentucky Proud vendor than has ever been paid throughout the history of the program,” he said.
For more information about Kentucky Proud, contact Kristen Branscum, executive director of the KDA marketing office, at 502-564-4983 or firstname.lastname@example.org and to find Kentucky Proud producers and products, visit www.kyproud.com