Call to Order and Roll Call
The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Wednesday, June 13, 2012, at<MeetTime> 10:00 AM, at the Blue Lick Battlefield State Park, Carlisle, 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; Senators Joe Bowen, Paul Hornback, Dennis Parrett, Joey Pendleton, Dorsey Ridley, Damon Thayer, and Robin L. Webb,; Representatives Royce W. Adams, John "Bam" Carney, Mike Cherry, Mike Denham, C.B. Embry Jr., Sara Beth Gregory, Kim King, Martha Jane King, Michael Meredith, Terry Mills, Brad Montell, Ryan Quarles, Tom Riner, Bart Rowland, Steven Rudy, Wilson Stone, Tommy Turner, and Susan Westrom.
Guests: Diane Hardesty, Robertson County Conservation District; Keith Ellis, Robertson County farmer; Dr. Robert Houtz, Chair, Department of Horticulture, University of Kentucky; Taylor Lloyd, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture; Stephen Popyach, President, Southeast Biofuels, LLC, Chuck Brown, Superintendent, Robertson County School System; Sue Connelly, Robertson County Magistrate; Barbara Atwood, Office of Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, and Jim Hinson, Harrison County.
Chairman McKee called the meeting to order and introduced Michael Schwendau, Park Manager, Blue Licks Battlefield State Park, and Sue Connelly, Robertson County Magistrate, who welcomed committee members to the Park. He also introduced Chuck Brown, Superintendent, Robertson County School System. Mr. Brown talked briefly about the new Robertson County School, and said that when completed, the building would be a showcase for energy efficiency. Also, the school’s Agriculture Department was been instrumental in securing grants and Phase I tobacco funds for the construction of a new barn that will be used for agricultural classes.
Effect of Phase I Funds on Robertson County
Diane Hardesty, Robertson County Conservation District Board, spoke about numerous projects that had been completed with Phase I tobacco funds. She said the goal is to reduce the financial burden on farming operations along with improvements to individual farms in Robertson County. Since 2009, the Conservation Board has administered $1,886,000 of Phase I funds towards 537 projects. The economic revenue generated from those funds amounts to approximately $4,000,000. The Board has been able to distribute approximately $80,000 for a livestock facility/FFA barn at the Robertson County School. Mr. Keith Ellis, a Robertson County farmer, also spoke about the positive impact that the Phase I funds have provided for the area farmers.
University of Kentucky Agricultural Biotechnology Research
Dr. Robert Houtz, Chairman, Department of Horticulture, University of Kentucky, said he had been involved in a special program known as the Agricultural Biotechnology Research for twenty years. The program produces superior students and challenges them to rise to another level. Students completing the program have been placed, more successfully, in professional and graduate schools than any other graduate program at the University of Kentucky.
Taylor Lloyd, spoke about her undergraduate research conducted at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Two national awards, the 2011 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar and the 2011 NASA Astronaut Scholar, have funded her last year of research at the University of Kentucky. Her research objective is to enhance the understanding of the physiological and molecular events controlling seed germination. The significance of the research is that seeds represented over 70 percent of the food supply. Her research has given her the privilege of identifying a protein that regulates germination following extreme heat, and afforded her the opportunity to present those findings at two national conferences and publish two papers. She said that her future includes sharing her experience with students in the secondary science education field. She has been accepted to the Master’s program with Initial Certification program at the University of Kentucky in the College of Education and will be evaluating students who have received the same grant that she did.
In response to questions from Senator Givens, Ms. Lloyd said that the objective of her next research project is to put concrete evidence behind what is known about undergraduate research and how successful it has been. She will be evaluating ten students who were researching ecology projects and interviewing faculty members who were mentoring the students to find out their experiences and what they hoped to get out of the experience.
In response to a question from Representative Stone, Ms. Lloyd said that her experience in the research lab allows her to really know what it means to be a researcher. She said her calling, at this point, is to be a classroom teacher.
Producing Ethanol Using Sorghum
Stephen Popyach, President, Southeast Biofuels, LLC, gave a presentation on energy independence. Harvesting sorghum is another resource for energy independence. His research has shown that sorghum could produce 700 gallons of ethanol per acre. Many foreign countries that are trying to become energy independent are growing sorghum. As an example, Brazil no longer imports oil, and all of its motor vehicles run on ethanol. Brazil is slowly shifting away from raising sugar cane to sorghum. Sorghum could be grown in the poorest of soils and in arid conditions, and it is cheaper to grow than corn.
In summary, Mr. Popyach said that the research into biofuels should be based on how much sugar could be retrieved out of an acre. Each pound of sugar harvested per acre should yield a half-pound of ethanol. Sorghum produces between 20 and 23 percent sugar, and that it takes approximately 120 days from planting to harvest. Two thousand acres of sorghum would yield one million gallons of ethanol. Farmers would not have to purchase new equipment to harvest sorghum, which would cut down on growing and harvesting expenses. He said that it costs $1.60, on the farm, to make a gallon of ethanol, which sells on the market for $2.15 per gallon.
Mr. Popyach said that Phase I of the research has been completed, but more funds are needed before Phase II research could begin.
In response to Representative McKee’s question, Mr. Popyach said that Tennessee and Florida are two places that a person could go to observe the production of sorghum.
Representative Stone and Senator Webb reported that the Kentucky Attorney General worked out a monetary settlement with the courts regarding Eastern Livestock Company’s failure to provide payment to farmers in Kentucky who were not paid for the sale of their cattle. Those farmers will be paid in installments. Some of the defendants were convicted and sentenced to jail time.
Meeting adjourned at 12:00 p.m.