The6th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Tuesday, November 10, 2009, at 1:00 PM, in Room 171 of the Capitol Annex. Senator David Givens, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator David Givens, Co-Chair; Representative Tom McKee, Co-Chair; Senators Ernie Harris, Bob Leeper (via video conference), Vernie McGaha, Joey Pendleton, Dorsey Ridley, Damon Thayer, and Ken Winters; Representatives Royce W. Adams, Johnny Bell, Dwight D. Butler, Mike Cherry, James R. Comer Jr., C. B. Embry Jr., Jeff Greer, Jimmy Higdon, Charlie Hoffman, Brad Montell, David Osborne, Sannie Overly, Don Pasley, Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, Dottie Sims, Kent Stevens, Wilson Stone, Tommy Turner, Ken Upchurch, and Susan Westrom.
Guests: Joel Neaveill, Chief of Staff, and Roger Thomas, Executive Director, Governorís Office of Agricultural Policy; Dr. Scott Smith, Dean, and Dr. Jimmy Henning, Associate Dean for Extension, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture; Steve Mason, Special Assistant to the President, Dr. James Chapman, Dr. Harold Benson, and Dr. Jim Tidwell, Kentucky State University; Mark Haney, President, Laura Knoth, and John Hendricks, Kentucky Farm Bureau; Keith Rogers, 2009 Chairman of the Kentucky Agricultural Council; Dr. Wade Northington and Dr. Tony Brannon, Murray State University; and Craig Maffet, Dr. Bob Stout, Tom Bloemer, and Mac Stone, Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA).
LRC Staff:† Biff Baker and Susan Spoonamore, Committee Assistant.
The minutes of September 9, 2009, and October 8, 2009, were approved, without objection, by voice vote, upon motion made by Rep. Don Pasley and seconded by Rep. Royce Adams.
Rep. Susan Westrom, Co-Chair of the Subcommittee on Horse Farming, reported that the subcommittee heard discussion regarding walking horse soring issues, comments on current trends in the thoroughbred industry, and an update and progress report of the Kentucky Breeders Incentive Program.
Chairman Givens gave a brief report on the issues discussed at the Subcommittee on Rural Issues meeting. An update on problems faced by Kentucky dairy producers was presented by Maury Cox, Executive Director, Kentucky Dairy Development Council, and dairy producers Bill Crist and Bob Klingenfus.
The Subcommittee reports and the upcoming IJC on Agriculture full committee report were approved, without objection, by voice vote, upon motion made by Rep. C.B. Embry and seconded by Rep. Wilson Stone.
Craig Maffet, KDA, introduced Dr. Robert Stout, State Veterinarian, Tom Bloemer, Regulations and Inspection Division, and Mac Stone, Office of Agriculture Marketing and Product Promotion. Dr. Stout talked about the upcoming World Equestrian Games (WEG). He stated that the department has developed protocol to help minimize risk of disease. The department, along with USDA and others, has developed a risk management plan in anticipation of the importation of horses from over 60 countries. The department also has the responsibility for facility entry and biosecurity maintenance of horses at the Horse Park. Dr. Stout stated that the operating expenses for the WEG, outside of the State Veterinarianís operating budget, was estimated to be $838,000, including a contingency fund of $150,000 for responses to emergencies or disease outbreaks.
Mr. Stone talked about potential ginseng legislation. Ginseng dealers have agreed to a licensing fee structure. The fees would be used by the department to help administer the ginseng program and would be a one-time fee. Mr. Stone explained that part of the proposed legislation would also protect diggers.
Next, Mr. Stone reviewed the Executive Summary of the State Aquaculture Plan. The plan, which was developed by the Aquaculture Task Force, outlines the potential future for Kentuckyís aquaculture industry. He said that the industry, with the help of Kentucky State University and others, has established a solid foundation and is growing. One of the recommendations included in the Executive Summary is to expand the Aquatic Diagnostic Lab at KSU. He also presented an overview of the budgetary recommendations of the task force (a copy is in the LRC Library file).
Mr. Stone was asked whether any discussions were being held regarding local water municipalities agreeing to stock paddlefish. He responded that there is some reluctance on the part of municipalities because of concerns surrounding the effect that paddlefish might have on other species. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources also shares that concern, as well as a concern over what would happen if paddlefish are introduced in open bodies of water. The task force plans to have quarterly meetings to work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and have conversations with scientists, biologists, and others to see if they can move forward in resolving paddlefish issues.
Darrin Moore, Director for Administrative Services with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, stated that the department had been working with the KDA on the paddlefish issue. Mr. Moore stated that the use of public waters is the issue that is causing concern. Mr. Moore stated that it was his understanding that municipalities can enter into contracts if they choose.
When asked how much of the budget request for aquaculture infrastructure needs would be used for administrative costs, Mr. Stone replied that he did not envision any of the funds being used for administrative costs.
Next, Craig Maffet and Tom Bloemer, KDA, discussed proposed legislation that would amend the statutes that relate to tobacco warehouses. Mr. Bloemer stated that the statutes need to be updated to include receiving stations, to define packaging of tobacco, and to eliminate language that is out of date. It was brought up that there are still some warehouse markets in Kentucky that are conducting traditional business and that the department should be careful when updating the statutes so there will not be any unintended consequences that would adversely affect those warehouses.
Mr. Maffet then discussed the role of the Regulations and Inspection Division, which regulates and monitors commerce goods that pass through a scale, a meter, or a scanner. Because of budgetary cuts, the division is operating on a reactionary basis and is no longer able to perform random checks on gas pumps and grocery scales, among other things. The department would like the General Assembly to consider legislation that would allow the department to charge fees to help finance the division. He said that the fees could be per meter, per scanner, or per scale, and would vary depending on the size and weight of the product.†
Upon questioning, Mr. Maffet and Mr. Bloemer said that the department regulates anything that measures a barcode, a weight, or a volume liquid. It would be hard to estimate how many meters there are, but Mr. Bloemer stated that approximately 48,000 meters are inspected annually and that U.S. Census Bureau Economic data shows that there are over 165,000 businesses in the state with over 2 million commercial devices.
Mr. Maffet and Mr. Bloemer also commented that a lot of personnel have been cross-trained so that the departmentís services were more cost-efficient, but that some jobs were specialized. Responding to questions, they answered that inspectors were putting seals on gas pumps that had been inspected and that monies received from fines were going to the department.
Next on the agenda was Roger Thomas, Governorís Office of Agricultural Policy. He talked about the numerous agencies that had, at one time or another, received funds from the Agricultural Development Board. Mr. Thomas asked committee members to keep that in mind during the 2010 budget negotiations. He pointed out that over the years the Agricultural Development Fund has been used to pay debt service on millions of dollars of bonds, and that if nothing is changed the fund is projecting a $3 million shortfall in fiscal year 2011, and a $6 million shortfall in 2012.
Several legislators expressed concern over appropriations from the Agricultural Development Fund being used to pay bond debts on infrastructure. Mr. Thomas agreed that a large part of the fund was being used to service water and sewer line bond debt, but there were other worthy agricultural programs being funded also. He said the Governor is committed to agriculture, and remains committed to the Agricultural Development Fund.
When asked about companies who fail to live up to the terms of their forgivable loan contracts, Mr. Thomas stated that in the past each forgivable loan required different terms, making it difficult to pursue in the legal system. The application process has since been streamlined to reduce those barriers. Mr. Thomas also commented that the predicted shortfall in the fund over the next two fiscal years included projected declines in Master Settlement Agreement revenues.
Dr. Scott Smith, Dean, and Dr. Jimmy Henning, Associate Dean for Extension, UK College of Agriculture, stated that the college had no legislative requests, but that aging facilities and operating expenses for off campus facilities is becoming a critical concern that will need to be addressed soon.
Dr. Smith and Dr. Henning also updated the members on the status of the 4-H camps project and the financial status of county extension programs. In addition, Dr. Smith stated that the final completion date of the Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center project is scheduled for the fall of 2010.
Upon questioning, Dr. Henning agreed to provide the committee members with a final breakdown of renovations approved for each 4-H camp.
Dr. James Chapman, Provost, Kentucky State University, stated that KSU was in the process of resurrecting the College of Agriculture for students interested in agriculture careers. The college will be known as the College of Agriculture, Food Science, and Sustainable Systems.
Dr. Harold Benson, Director of Land Grant Programs, KSU, stated that the new Center for Sustainability for Farms and Families should be completed by the spring of 2010. It is being constructed on the KSU Research Farm in Franklin County. He also discussed the new Center for Families and Children program.
Dr. Jim Tidwell, Director, Aquaculture Program, KSU, stated that the new Aquaculture Production Technology building is in the final design stage of construction. It will allow more high-tech research to be conducted regarding aquaculture. He explained that the building will also have an aquaculture genetics lab which will help to improve production and reproduction growth rates.
Mr. Mark Haney, President, John Hendricks, 1st Vice President, and Laura Knoth, Director of Public Affairs, Kentucky Farm Bureau, spoke next. Mr. Haney explained that after reviewing all the resolutions submitted from the county level, the issue that was most mentioned involved animal care. He said that Farm Bureau would be active in proposing ways to mitigate this issue. Mr. Haney also stated that Farm Bureau was very interested and supportive of a new diagnostic lab for the Breathitt Veterinary Center. He said it was also important to continue funding for many of the programs within the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Mr. Haney said that Farm Bureau was interested in many other areas such as soil conservation, energy issues, environmental issues, and improving rural and secondary roads to move products from the farm to the market.
Mr. Keith Rogers, 2009 Chairman for the Kentucky Agricultural Council, presented a progress report entitled ďA Pathway for Kentuckyís Agriculture and Its Rural Communities: 2007 to 2012 Strategic Plan.Ē When asked how organizations could become a part of the council, Mr. Rogers stated that the council was open to any agricultural entity that met the criteria of the councilís by-laws.
Dr. Wade Northington, Director, Breathitt Veterinary Center, and Dr. Tony Brannon, Dean of the School of Agriculture, Murray State University, discussed the feasibility study for the construction of a new Breathitt Veterinary Center. Dr. Northington emphasized the urgent need for a new center and encouraged funding for the project. He explained that for the first time, the facility was in jeopardy of losing its accreditation. Because the facility is not able to provide the laboratory support that is required, it was given a one-year extension rather than a five-year accreditation. He also emphasized the importance of having a Biological Level 3 laboratory.
Several legislators agreed that a Biological Level 3 unit was critical to the safety of Kentuckians. They also agreed that the new diagnostic lab should not be built in a high-density populated area.
Chairman Givens then asked if there was any other business. Senator Pendleton briefly discussed BR 139, relating to industrial hemp.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.