Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture

 

Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 5th Meeting

of the 2011 Interim

 

<MeetMDY1> October 12, 2011

 

Call to Order and Roll Call

The<MeetNo2> 5th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on<Day> Wednesday,<MeetMDY2> October 12, 2011, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Tom McKee, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

Present were:

 

Members:<Members> Senator David Givens, Co-Chair; Representative Tom McKee, Co-Chair; Senators Joe Bowen, Carroll Gibson, Paul Hornback, Bob Leeper, Vernie McGaha, Dennis Parrett, Joey Pendleton, Damon Thayer, Robin L. Webb, and Ken Winters; Representatives Royce W. Adams, John "Bam" Carney, Will Coursey, Mike Denham, C. B. Embry Jr., Jim Glenn, Sara Beth Gregory, Richard Henderson, Kim King, Michael Meredith, Terry Mills, Fred Nesler, David Osborne, Sannie Overly, Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, Rita Smart, Wilson Stone, Tommy Turner, and Susan Westrom.

 

Guests: Roger Barlow, President, The Catfish Institute; Jeff McCord, Public Affairs Advisor, The Catfish Institute; Linda McGee, representing The Catfish Institute; Tamara Sandberg, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of Food Banks; Mandy Brajuha, Godís Pantry Food Bank, Lexington, Kentucky; and David Neville, producer and auctioneer of Capstone Produce Market.

 

LRC Staff: Biff Baker, Lowell Atchley, and Susan Spoonamore, Committee Assistant.

 

The September 9, 2011 minutes were approved by voice vote, without objection, upon motion made by Representative Mike Denham and seconded by Representative Richard Henderson.

 

Upon motion made by Senator Damon Thayer and seconded by Representative Wilson Stone, the Subcommittee Report on Horse Farming was approved by voice vote, without objection.

 

Upon motion made by Representative Mike Denham and seconded by Representative John Carney, the Subcommittee Report on Rural Issues was approved by voice vote, without objection.

 

Discussion of Catfish Labeling

Mr. Roger Barlow, The Catfish Industry, explained that the Instituteís proposal to require restaurants to identify the country of origin of catfish is to let consumers know where their food comes from. He said that China and Vietnam supply approximately 80 percent of catfish imported into the United States. Much of that catfish is unregulated, and there are numerous examples of shipments being rejected at U.S. ports because of unsafe additives, residues of banned drugs, evidence of salmonella, and false labeling. Catfish grown in the U.S. are more strictly regulated and have stringent requirements regarding chemical use and additives. Mr. Barlow indicated that either the Department of Agriculture or the Cabinet for Health and Family Services could administer the oversight of the country of origin requirements by reviewing restaurant invoices and labeling requirements.

 

Jeff McCord, The Catfish Institute, stated that 5 states have enacted laws requiring restaurants to provide labeling information pertaining to the origin of catfish, and that restaurants that advertise U.S. farm-raised catfish often see a rise in their sales.

 

In response to questions, Mr. Barlow said that country of origin labeling is already required at retail stores, but that restaurants are exempt. He explained that other meats such as beef, poultry, and pork are inspected by the United Stated Department of Agriculture, but catfish is not. The federal government does not have enough inspectors to man every port, so most of the catfish that comes into the U.S. is not checked. The Catfish Institute has asked the government to do more inspections, but Washington has been slow to respond. Mr. Barlow stated that if consumers are given a choice, he feels they would purchase U.S. catfish even if it cost more than imported catfish.

 

Mr. Barlow said that the importation of inferior and mislabeled catfish has caused a strain on the U.S. catfish industry. Farmers cannot compete when their competition does not have to follow the same rules. He pointed out that Kentucky has excellent water to raise catfish is in the top 10 catfish-producing states. Most of the catfish in the U.S. is raised in Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas.

 

In response to more questions, Mr. Barlow stated that the Farm Bill transferred the inspection of catfish from the FDA to the USDA. He said there has been no opposition from the USDA on proposed signage for the country of origin for catfish. He also stated that several states have enacted legislation requiring country of origin labeling, with varying enforcement and penalty provisions.

 

Ms. Angela Caporelli, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, stated that Kentucky catfish producers sell to Mississippi and Arkansas processing plants and is labeled as U.S. Raised Catfish. Several Kentucky producers are a part of the Kentucky Proud Program. She felt the proposed legislation would be an excellent consumer awareness program and has great potential in Kentucky.

 

Status of Food Supply in Kentucky

Ms. Tamara Sandberg, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of Food Banks, introduced Mandy Brajuha, External Relations Director, Godís Pantry Food Bank, and David Neville, manager of Capstone Produce Market. Ms. Sandberg gave a brief overview of the prevalence of hunger in Kentucky, the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, Farms to Food Banks, and Food Policy Council.

 

Ms. Sandberg said that there are 800,000 individuals in Kentucky who do not know where their next meal is coming from, and that 30 percent of them do not qualify for federal nutrition programs. She said the annual food budget shortfall for families in Kentucky was $285 million, and that if the federal government cuts back on food nutrition programs, the non-profit sector will not be able to fill that gap.

 

Ms. Brajuha shared the story of a family who had always done everything the right way and had worked hard all their lives, but through no fault of their own, experienced a series of unfortunate incidents that lead them to Godís Pantry.

 

Ms. Sandberg said that food banks were initially created to be an emergency food supply. A recent national study found that more than half the people who visited a food pantry in 2009 used the services for at least six months, and more than a third of them went every month. Ms. Sandberg stated that anti-hunger programs are more than just a safety net for individual families; they are investments in the communities. She said that only 11 percent of the adults in Kentucky eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables, and the rate is even lower for low income people.

 

Ms. Sandberg explained that the Kentucky Association of Food Banks provides food and quality services to as many Kentucky residents as possible. The Association has 7 districts that cover all 120 counties. Food and funding for food is collected from Feeding America, local donations, government sources, farmers, individuals, and foundations. The food is distributed to over 1,000 charitable feeding organizations. She said that almost 60 million pounds of food was distributed, but the demand for food services continues to increase. It will become a major issue if the supply of federal commodities is reduced any more.

 

Ms. Sandberg discussed other sources that the association uses to get food, including produce auctions and commodity groups. The association has established the Farms to Food Banks program that purchases surplus produce and distributes it to Kentuckians. The program addresses the need for food among vulnerable Kentuckians, it strengthens the farm economy, and it reduces the amount of food wasted. She said the pilot funding came from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund and was matched by the Wal-Mart Foundation. Ms. Sandberg said that with a budget of only $136,000, the Association was able to purchase produce from 201 producers and distribute approximately 800,000 pounds in 108 Kentucky counties.

 

Ms. Sandberg stated that Michiganís Agricultural Surplus System receives $755,000 a year from the state Department of Agriculture. In 2009, Michigan was able to purchase and distribute over 6 million pounds of produce. Michigan also has a program that contracts with producers to buy a specific number of potatoes for a guaranteed contract price. Ms. Sandberg also described Ohioís 2 programs; the Food Purchase Program and the Agricultural Clearance Program. The Food Purchase Program buys commodities and processed food. The Agricultural Clearance Program is similar to Kentuckyís Farms to Food Bank program. The Ohio General Assembly funds each program $6.25 million annually.

 

Ms. Sandberg stated that in 2009, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture Surplus Agricultural Commodities Grant Program was established, but not funded. The association would like to see the creation of a Food Policy Council.

 

David Neville, producer and auctioneer with Capstone Produce Market, stated that producers were excited about the Farms to Food Banks program. It gives producers the opportunity to market their surplus crops and recoup their costs. In 2010, twenty counties and 283 producers participated in the Farms to Food Banks program.

 

In response to questions, Ms. Sandberg stated that from 2006 through 2010 the demand for the associationís services has increased 84 percent. Ms. Brajuha stated that Godís Food Pantry had the highest ever demand for services this past August, serving approximately 2,000 families.

 

Chairman McKee noted that the following informational items were available if any of the members wanted copies:

        UK Tobacco Research & Development Center quarterly report for April 1 through June 30, 2011;

        Cabinet for Economic Development letter informing LRC that no activity occurred regarding the Agricultural Warehousing Sites Cleanup Fund for FY 2011;

        Report of the Audit of the KDA Spay and Neuter Program for FY 2011; and

        Kentucky Small Business Development Center Annual Report.

 

There being no other business, the meeting adjourned at 12:00 p.m.