Call to Order and Roll Call
The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Wednesday, September 8, 2010, at 9:00 AM, at the Schochoh Community Center, Adairville, Kentucky. Representative Tom McKee, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator David Givens, Co-Chair; Representative Tom McKee, Co-Chair; Senator Joey Pendleton; Representatives Johnny Bell, John "Bam" Carney, James R. Comer Jr., C. B. Embry Jr., Charlie Hoffman, Martha Jane King, Terry Mills, Brad Montell, Fred Nesler, Sannie Overly, Don Pasley, Steven Rudy, Kent Stevens, and Wilson Stone.
Guests: Representative John Will Stacy; Representative Jody Richards; Lee Robey, Robey Dairy Farm; Don Halcomb and Sam Halcomb, Walnut Grove Farms; John W. McCauley, State Executive Director, Ky. Farm Service Agency; Tom Harned, President, Logan County Economic Alliance for Development; Francis Brown, PACE Board; and Maury Cox, Kentucky Dairy Development Council.
Presentation on Miscanthus Test Plots
Mr. Sam Halcomb and Mr. Don Halcomb, Walnut Grove Farms, discussed changes in the future of the family farm and their thoughts on the potential for biomass to be a sustainable source for fuel. They were joined by representatives from Mendel BioEnergy Seeds. The Halcombs stated that their interest in biomass stems from a desire to enter an industry that is new and growing. They discussed some of the opportunities that biomass and biofuels offer, such as corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel. They also discussed some of their concerns about the industry, such as the lack of consensus at the federal level as to the future of biomass and biofuels.
The Halcombs stated that Kentucky has 52 coal-fired power plants that are energy intensive, and we must be ready to meet the demand with renewable sources. The most feasible source of renewable power in Kentucky was cellulose (forestry, crop residue collection, and dedicated energy crops). Research from the University of Kentucky projects that the biomass industry would generate $3.4 billion in addition to the current $4.3 billion agricultural industry and could generate 10,000 new jobs.
In response to questions about miscanthus, the Halcombs and Mendel BioEnergy Seeds representatives explained that they preferred miscanthus over switchgrass because miscanthus was either generating its own nitrogen or was absorbing it more efficiently. They were not aware of any negative bi-products of miscanthus, and that they anticipate that miscanthus fields can yield 10-14 dry tons per acre. Miscanthus is rolled into 4x3 foot square bales and grows until a killing frost.
When asked about energy efficiency, the Halcombs estimated that the conversion rate between coal and biomass is 80%.
Robey Dairy Farms
Mr. Lee Robey, Robey Dairy Farms, stated that there are less than 1,000 dairy farms left in Kentucky, and that a primary factor limiting increased milk production is the difficulty getting financing to upgrade dairy facilities. His dairy parlor operates 22 hours a day, milking 2,000 cows three times per day.
Mr. Robey also discussed the utilization of manure, which contains a large amount of nutrients. He can fertilize up to 2,000 acres of cropland by injecting manure on his corn crop. He also has implemented a dead animal composting system on his farm, since Griffin Industries no longer picks up dead animals.
In response to questions, Mr. Robey stated that dairy farmers have two options for selling their milk; through a co-op or directly to a processor. He also noted that farmers have very few options as to where to sell their milk, with Dean Foods controlling most of the milk market. Maury Cox of the Kentucky Dairy Development Council stated that there are between 200 and 300 independent producers, and that the decline of dairy farms appears to be leveling off.
There being no further questions, the committee adjourned to tour Walnut Grove Farms, where experimental plots of miscanthus are being grown, and Robey Dairy Farms.